Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Daytime City Nervous

This number is about a man asking a woman who lives in the country to come join him in the city. She doesn't want to, as the city makes her nervous. Now she has a choice.

I guess I could be more specific about that and say that it's about this particular man asking this particular woman, and I could name names. But that would be invading someone's privacy wouldn't it? Suppose I just tell you that they were real people, and she chose to join him, and they were very happy until death them did part. And that's the truth.



Daytime City Nervous
william hoover - 21 Nov 2007

Daytime city nervous
Sunset country calm
I could sit up all night with you
But I need to write this song
Lord have mercy
You’ve been by my side
Durin’ all these tryin’ times
Take your pick and just decide

Do you want to be daytime city nervous
Or sunset country calm?
Do you want to come home to me
Or just stay here alone?

Do you want to give up this life
We’ve wrapped ourselves around?
Is this where the river splits
Or comes together on higher ground?
You gotta know I love you
I gotta know you’re mine
And if you say it’s still all so
Well, that would just be fine

Do you want to be daytime city nervous
Or sunset country calm?
Do you want to come home to me
Or just stay here alone?

Daytime city nervous
Sunset country calm
I could sit up all night with you
But I need to hear this song
Lord have mercy
You’ve been by my side
Durin’ all these tryin’ times
Take your pick and just decide

Do you want to be daytime city nervous
Or sunset country calm?
Do you want to come home to me
Or just stay here alone?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dan, the Atheist Killjoy

OK, so this song has an interesting pedigree. For Christmas of 2008, Ken Plume posted the following challenge to the Masters of Song Fu
Tis the season and all that, right? Well, your challenge is to create a brand new character for this holiday season, and write a holiday song for him/her/it. Think Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty The Snowman, etc. Now you can add your own musical contribution to the festivities. That’s it. The only other directive is that your song must run no shorter than 1 minute 45 seconds.
Sounds simple, right? And in fact, the challenge did yield some nice results, such as my hands-down favorite, "Twangles, the Christmas Squid" by Jason Morris. (Follow this link for others.)  As it turns out, it ain't so easy. Although I'd sort of halfway thought about it, I never seriously tackled the challenge until now, and that was as a result of an off-hand comment that the only idea I could come up with was "Dan, the Atheist Killjoy". Someone said "do it", so I did.


Here's the song. Stick around (especially if you hate it) and I've got some more commentary below, after the lyrics.




Dan, the Atheist Killjoy
by Dr Lindyke


[pattern 1]
Dan, the Atheist Killjoy
Loves to celebrate Christmas
By making fun of the Christians
And generally being a dick.

Should you bow your head in reverence
Don't look to God for deliverance
Because Dan is highly litigious
And he usually makes the lawsuit stick 


 [pattern 2]

(And Dan says,) 
"There can be... a holiday tree,
"So long as it doesn't have angels on it
"Or Supernatural references that might 
"Imply the existence of God."

(And he says)
"You can't pray within sight of me,
"Or anywhere in my vicinity,
"Because First Amendment guarantees
"Are for me and me alone." 


 [pattern 3]

But Ramadan is a gas,
And Kwanzaa gets a great big pass,
Because multicultural Dan is also
A hypocritical ass (but don't get me started...) 


 [instrumental break]

 [pattern 1]

Dan the Atheist Killjoy
Was set upon by wild pastors
Who hacked off both his arms and legs
With a flaming sword of Justice and Truth

Because Everyone has their Reasonable limits
and in All fairness Dan exCeeded his by a wide 
Margin... by Any conceivable 
Measure you wish to apply. 


 [pattern 2]

Then with a double touch of irony
Dan filled the air with heartfelt screams
"Oh, God! Oh God! OH GOD!" cried he,
...But no one actually... came. 


 [pattern 3]

Some see this as evidence that Dan faked his conversion
At least that's what SHE said, but I don't want to cast aspersions
And I didn't mean to suggest some kind of sexual perversion...

And now I'll have to write a fam'ly oriented version 
Of this song... 


 [pattern 1]

Now, I must admit the true events of this story
Are not quite so violent and not quite so gory
And by "not quite so" I mean...
Not in the slightest detail 


 [pattern 4]

In truth, the preachers looked to the Heavens above
And poured out upon Dan unconditional love
And prayed for the soul of that poor heathen schlub
Nestled safe and secure in the arms ... 
of Beelzebub 


 [outro. pattern 5]

Sing Hallelujah
And Dan will sue ya
He's got a lawya'
He can destroy ya

Sing Hallelujah
And he'll stick it to ya
He's gunnin' for ya
Dan's an Atheist Killjoy, bay-bee!
 

[outro. pattern 6]
Dan...!
He's an atheist killjoy!
Oh Dan!
For Pete's sake don't tell him santa means saint!
Dan...!
He's an atheist killjoy!
Oh Dan!
Can't celebrate Christmas around Dan....!





OK, There are a few odd things about this song. It's a hypocrite sieve, designed to offend anyone who deserves to be. It's a joke, and if you're overly serious you're going to miss it. On the surface, it takes up position on the Christian Right, and overtly makes fun of atheists. But not just any atheist... only the overly litigious, hypocritical sort as described. So taking offense for being made fun of means you've selected yourself as exactly that sort of person. On the other hand, if you're Christian, there's a point in the song at which you should become extremely uncomfortable. It's the only Christmas song I know of with a feigned orgasm and a "that's what she said" joke in it. Granted, it's in a "fantasy sequence", but you don't know that until the cat's out of the bag.


So while it insults atheists from the Christian Right, if you're an atheist who takes offense, there's something wrong with you. And if you're a professed Christian who likes the song, there's something wrong with you, too.  And oddly enough, that's by design.


Happy Christmahanakwanzika, everyone.
And Merry Christmas to you, Dan.




Other composing notes: 

At one point I'd written that Dan was "set upon by wild preachers", which looks much better on paper, having that "in your face" fire-and-brimstone kind of vibe. However, in performing it, it became clear that "preachers" is nearly indistinguishable from "creatures" no matter how carefully you pronounce it, so it just confused people.


The style is deliberately reminiscent of Tom Lehrer or Tim Minchin, both noted atheists. That's part of the joke. BTW, I love the work of both of them, and I'm Christian. It's not intended to be so close as to be a parody or pastiche, but just a nod in that direction. It's not the easiest style to replicate, as you have to just ramble away from the meter and somehow still hit the rhyme on time, as well as spend a bit of the song acting as well as singing. I mess that up a few places in this performance, but it's written to do that if I play it well.


The weird capitalization in the "reasonable limits" verse is simply to remind me which syllables to stress. Those are the ones that have to hit the mark, and the rest have to be deliberately relaxed, not forced or mechanically precise.


This performance is simply a draft to get the idea across. That's why it's recorded raw, on my cell phone. I might do a better performance later, maybe even with instrumentation and a pre-thought arrangement... then again, maybe not. In either case, the song is licensed as Creative Commons (non-commercial share-alike attribution). Use in non-commercial stuff with my blessing; and contact me for permission before using it commercially (as if!)


  Creative Commons License
Based on a work at music.cratchit.org.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Heart of Glass (not quite)


Those who know me well know never to turn the car radio to a music station while I'm riding. I have the worst habit of changing the lyrics. I don't usually write them down (Billy Jean being an exception), but I'm making another exception for this rendition of "Heart of Glass" only because there's a tiny Easter egg in it for +Julia Sherred . By the way, this is astoundingly predictable and puerile, even for me. Quite suitable for your next karaoke party. Feel free to flip the gender. Oh, and I apologise profusely for this. Don't read it. 

Instead, watch the original by Blondie.



Once I had a love, but she had gas
It wilted flowers, and killed the grass
Smelled like a dead cow
(the rotting kind)
Keep your nose clear Of her behind

Once I had a love, but she had gas
A smelly green cloud came out of her ass
Smelled like a fishpond
(I'm being kind)
Keep your nose clear of her behind

She cut the cheese
Can't get this kind of limberger at Applebee's
The miasma around it drops me to my knees
I wish I had a mask 'cause it don't do no good
To filter with my hood-ie....

Once I had a love, but she had gas
A smelly green cloud came out of her ass
Smelled like a fishpond
(I'm being kind)
Keep your nose clear of her behind

This hellish scent
Pepe Le Pew thinks that she's Heaven-sent
The things I'd like to say! (I'm glad it isn't Lent!)
[alternate line: It's like she's some mad scientist's experiment]
My lungs are close to bursting, ye-ah.

(La la la)
(lalalalala)
(la la la)
(lalalala)
(la la la)
(lalalala)
Yeah, riding high, oxygen deprivation!
[alternate line: Yeah, riding high on methane concentrations!]
Ooh ooh whoa (x4)

Once I had a love, but she had gas
So I hired BP to plug her ass.
Smelled like a dead cow
(the rotting kind)
Keep your nose clear Of her behind
Ooh ooh whoa (x4)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Photo Finish

OK, we didn't make it past the SpinTunes rap challenge... although I personally think we hit the challenge square on, I'm not surprised to see the judges score entries more highly that ventured outside the box.
The challenge for the last round is a photograph of  a rusty 1960 Cadillac DeVille abandoned in a wood in Austria. Specifically, this photograph by Reinfried Marass (I'd embed it if I had rights to do that. Why we'd use a photograph that's not licensed under Creative Commons is one of the Great Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe, which will never, ever be explain in accordance with common sense).

It's the actual wording of the challenge which interested to me: "Write a song inspired by the Reinfried Marass photo below" Now, keep in mind that this is the revised challenge. The original challenge read, "Write a song about the Reinfried Marass photo below".  Note that it didn't say "inspired by", but "about", and not about the car, either, but about the photo. THAT's what got our brain spinning... not the challenge as it is, but as it was when it was posted.

It interested William as well. He happened to have been born in 1960, at the same time as the car in question. The lyrics he sent me, with a title inspired by the original challenge, deal with a man and a car approaching decrepitude at the same time. Both are "broken eyed"... one with headlights, the other with color-blindness. An odd thing, to have your fate entangled with that of an object.


PHOTO FINISH
wmh 7.26.11

Two old horses have run the race
Both aging but undiminished
A little rusty, and lost of some spark
But crossing the line in a photo finish

I remember the past days like they are tomorrow
As fresh as a meadow in spring
Put out to pasture - no regrets and no sorrow
Looking forward to the promise the future would bring

Broken eyed - but not blind
Both victims of the ages and sun
But classic things never go out of style
They just get recycled around and return

Mettle or metal, which wins the battle
Relics of the past, neither one with the will to survive
Except into memories and fantasy
And the history of what walks or what rides

One dies a pauper- one retires to a museum
There’re some who would say they’re the same
Each of them sent to his own mausoleum
Never again to run on the tracks of the game

Broken eyed - but not blind
Both victims of the ages and sun
But classic things never go out of style
They just get recycled around and return

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Politics and Promises

This is for SpinTunes 3, Round 3. The challenge is to write a rap. Sooo... we decided it would be most difficult to avoid nerdcore and hit the challenge head-on. So here it is.


Production-wise, absolutely nothing went our way this week... the instrumentation entirely unlike what we had hoped to do, but we make do when things fall through.

I'll follow the lyrics with a bit of song bio...

POLITICS AND PROMISES
william hoover

Politics and Promises
I lie awake each night
And think of all the lucky men who died before the fight
And those who still are with us
Who revel in delight
To use our simple apathy to get ahead in life

Six a.m.Thursday how late this city sleeps
A stray dog chases pigeons up and down the empty streets
There the Hyland donor wrenches out his wrinkled hands
Counting all his needle marks and wishing they were friends

Just up the street, on 23rd and Main
There stands an all glass building where our laws are made
Transparent to some, mirror-like to most
Who cater to the press and wear those fancy clothes

[Instrumental break]

You can sing me to sleep
With your billy club in hand
But does the riot become quiet
With the silence of just one man?

Breathe your words on me
Have me lay my weapons down
Find a compromise to satisfy
The hatred we found.

I can take a piece of you
You can take a piece of me
Someone dies - someone cries
Maybe friends or enemies.
Brother let me tell you now that your hatred is wack
If it's ok to you then you're on the wrong track.

[instrumental break]

Beside the all glass building there stands a golden steeple
A symbol of religion to all god-fearing people
People who confuse beliefs and making laws
Who bend the system far enough to grease some local palms

Yeah, go ahead, does it make you feel better
Read a selection from the Good Book's letters
Read me the part about love thy neighbor
And read me the part about a baby saviour
But read for your own how to cast the first stone
And read for your own how friendship is sown
So yeah, go ahead, did it make you feel better
Did the baptism take or just make you wetter?

[Instrumental break]

Broken glass promises
In the shadows of the Big House
The White House
It doesn't matter what louse
Is makin' 'em
they're fakin' 'em
they're takin' 'em
and breakin' 'em
they're tellin' us
they're savin' us
and all the while
they're playin' us

Six a.m. Thursday how late this city sleeps
The politician awakes from his adulterous deceit
Political ambition taken from the donor's hands
And the promise of reform ain't gonna change his plans
(and he's got plans, baby)

Politics and Promises
I lie awake each night
And think of all the lucky men who died before the fight
And those who still are with us
Who revel in delight
To use our simple apathy to get ahead in life



Song Bio
We started out determined to do this as a straight rap and avoid "nerdcore", partly due to the company we're keeping in this competition (which is mostly geeks, "Dr. Lindyke" not excluded). 

So, having decided to meet the rap challenge head-on and not try to avoid or deflect it in any way, we had to decide what goes in it. Since rap is often concerned with socially relevant topics, of course we went with politics and religion, as you've seen.
Basically, the lyrics are set up as follows:
  1. Set the stage
  2. Can't we all just get along?
  3. Judgement
  4. Politics
That's a lot to cover in a short song, but we're not trying to flesh anything out. The "rapper" persona here is simply a guy who feels as though he's been stepped on, but isn't savvy enough to know who is doing the stepping, or why. So it's a general declaration of dissatisfaction without focus.

Some of the lyrics are not what they sound like. For instance, the "Hyland donor" isn't a drug addict... he's just a poor guy just trying to make ends meet by donating blood at the Red Cross in Hyland Park. The "golden steeple" isn't just a religious symbol... it also stands in for the court systems, which are housed in buildings replete with religious symbolism (for instance, the ubiquitous statue of "Justice" is a goddess of the Greek pantheon), and the justices -- who wear priestly robes -- begin their proceedings with prayer. The verse is a little stab at "legislating from the bench", and serves to segue from politics to religion. The symbolism of it being the courts is further driven home by the physical proximity to the "all-glass building" which is a stand-in for our Federal building. This leads into a verse that's superficially about the Bible, but is actually, more generally, critical of being judgemental and hypocritical. The punchline is my favorite line of the song.

This leads us from hypocrisy to broken promises, which we assume to be deliberate. Again, our rapper is stepped on, and to him it doesn't matter what face or party is in office... so a bit of conspiracy-mongering is in order.

Almost all of it is inspired by actual events, though, including the "billy club" verse (which also intended to replace the famous (and now worn out) Rodney King "can't we all just get along?" sentiment). Edric actually used that line in the last round, so we needed an alternative; I think William's solution to that is better... "does the riot become quiet with the silence of just one man?"... I like that.

The rap is bookended with a chorus sung by Katie Prince. Thanks, Katie!


Production


This song is very unlike what I had planned.  I bought a copy of "How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC" by Paul Edwards, and one of the best tools listed in there was a "flow chart". Now, if you're a programmer, this is entirely unlike what you're used to calling a flow chart. Instead, it's a tool to break the song down syllable by syllable, plotting your breaths, and ensuring that the song flows well along the beat. I did chart this, originally having an extra measure in the 2nd and 6th lines of each verse. I changed that after I started putting it to music.


I had other instrumentation, but put in the piano when Edric Haleen made a comment about piano and rap. I originally had planned electric piano for the solos, but wound up working for two of the vacation days I had scheduled, so didn't get around to writing it. Hence the "aaaah's", and the overall sloppy sound. I might finish it properly one day.

PostScript


I don't mind saying that didn't feel very very good about this song when I submitted it. I had taken 3 days off work so I could work on the production, but didn't get to do it, as I was called in each of the three days. So, this is the latest I've worked on a song and had to cut the instrumentation I'd planned, and cut some of the stuff I'd actually recorded because it wasn't working.  Also, since it was the only piece of social commentary in a sea of party and nerdcore rap (excluding Charlie McCarron's surrealistic piece and Caleb Hines' non-rap), I felt it risked being old-fashioned and stuffy by comparison... so we'd either stand out as being different and brave, or we'd crash and burn.


It's too early to tell which will happen, but I'm gratified that early reviews don't exactly suck. Jon Eric, another competitor, who has had more experiencing rapping than anyone else in the competition, posted some very positive comments on his blog. Even Spintown liked it, and he's a self-professed fan of funny songs. Given that we're not doing terribly bad in the popular vote, either, even if we don't make it through to the next round I feel quite happy with the song, if not the delivery.

Here's the Negative Reinforcement from Sammy Kablam. "You're no Ross Durand." Well, that's hardly news... my wife has said the same. I feel both honored and puzzled that we have been left relatively unscathed. 


Friday, July 8, 2011

SpinTunes 3 Round 2 Non-Review

Voting is still open for this round! You can listen to the songs >>HERE<< and vote >>HERE<< (on the right-hand column of the page). You have up to FIVE votes, so spread 'em around. I hope Dr. Lindyke earns one of them!

OK, I tried to do some reviews of everyone's round 2 song; I really did. But I don't really have it in me at the moment. I DO, though, have some general thoughts.

I was heartened to see that nobody chose the "obvious" news story... Anthony Weiner. I tend to believe that everyone else believed it would be the obvious choice and avoided it for that reason. If so, kudos all around.

I'm always astounded that no matter how much latitude a songwriting contest gives, there are some duplicate thoughts. For instance...
  • In the "write a song about one of the 700 mole men" challenge of Song Fu 5, "Suction-Cupped Johnny" was chosen by Alex Taylor and Jalapeño Habañeros.
  • In the "write a song about a number" challenge for Song Fu 5, the numbers 2, 23, 5, pi, and the imaginary number i were all used more than once... even though the number of numbers to choose from is literally infinite.
  • In the "Secondary Historical Figures" challenge of SpinTunes 2, Round 3, with all of history from which to draw, both Edric Haleen and Charlie McCarron wrote about passengers on the bus with Rosa Parks.
So it should never be surprising when there are duplicate concepts. Nevertheless, I'm always surprised. In the current challenge we have:
  • Two songs about the final shuttle flight:
    • Too Soon To Say Goodbye by Caleb Hines
    • The Last Launch by Alex Carpenter
  • Two songs about the "one dollar bank robber":
    • Independence and Freedom for All by Godz Poodlz
    • One Dollar Robber (shadow entry) by Young Stroke aka Young Muscle
  • Two songs about the legalization of gay marriage:
    • What About Love? by Edric Haleen
    • When Frankie and Johnny Get Married by Steve Durand
    • the subject of gay marriage is also touched on briefly in Ross Durand's The American Way.
I'm not making a point here except to say that, when responding to these challenges, you simply can't be concerned with how "original" your idea is. No matter how offbeat the challenge, chances are good that somebody will be thinking like you. I would have thought that in a topical challenge, religion and war would have been well-trodden ground; yet the only other "war" song was Jutze's tongue-in-cheek number, Re: Your Oil.  (btw... Ross Durand noted in his review that our song, Prayer for Peace, sounded a bit like listening to someone pray. Having read the review, I'm now thoroughly convinced that our title was waaay too subtle, and am considering re-naming it to Some Jewish Guy Praying For Peace, and You Can Listen In. ^_^ (I love you, Ross, and so does my wife. In fact, I hope you have a spare room, 'cause she's on a bus, headed your way.))

Even when there is duplication of concept, I'm always impressed with the wildly different interpretations. I can think of nothing further apart than Steve Durand's and Edric Haleen's entries. Steve gives us a narrative in a perfectly styled turn-of-the-19th-century "oom-pah" waltz, while Edric abandons his usual storytelling for an in-your-face rap message in unfettered street language. Both entries are great.

Apart from the instances noted above, this round pulled from the most diverse sources. Some were simple, local stories, such as Program aids food stamp users by The Offhand Band, or A Tight Spot by Matt and Donna (about a kid who gets his head stuck between two railing posts). There was national news, like Wait What's Bunny Please Don't Go, and even an op-ed represented with Alexa Polasky's Infidelity. Add to this mix  Something In The Air; a flight of fancy from Inverse T. Clown worthy of a tabloid... except this tabloid story appeared in a reputable source.

All in all, this was a very good round, and a general step up in performance. I was especially impressed that the rappers upped their game, and that Wait What? decided to add some conviction to their performance that was sorely missing in the previous round.

The overall quality is good enough that I have no expectations of surviving the round or "leaving the island". Either way, it's all good...I get to feed my mp3 player with great stuff.

P.S. If I haven't mentioned it already... the very best song of the round is Caleb Hines' Too Soon To Say Goodbye. And if you don't agree... well... all I can say is there's no accounting for your horrible taste in music. It's a good thing you have me to set you straight. This song's got a great tune, tremendously poetic and descriptive lyrics. Easily Caleb's best evah.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Prayer For Peace


(lyrics are below)

The challenge for Round 2 of SpinTunes 3 is to write a topical song. Verbatim:
BREAKING NEWS! - You‘re writing a topical song. The challenge is pretty wide open, but there are some restrictions. Topical is going to be defined as something from a headline in a newspaper no older than 2 weeks from today. You can use your local newspaper or a major publication. You‘re even allowed to use the online versions of major publications. You will be required to include a link to the story that inspired your song, or attach a scan from the newspaper. (2 minute minimum) (your submission is due July 3rd 11:59PM)
Now I'm going to play barracks lawyer and note a few things about the challenge.  First, the fact that it's to be from a HEADLINE in a newspaper. It doesn't actually say anything about the story itself, so fiction and extrapolations inspired by that headline would appear to be OK. The use of the word "inspired" in the challenge would tend to confirm that, as does the assertion that the challenge is "pretty wide open". (After I wrote this, I see that some interpretation of that was posted by SpinTown to the effect that it should be about the story. If you wanted that you should have put it in the challenge.) It also states "in a newspaper" and "online versions" which tells me that online sources aren't allowable unless the story is print on dead trees somewhere.

That wasn't terribly good news for us. Neither William nor I subscribe to a newspaper, so we went online to scan the headlines.

One early idea was to write a lively barbershop quartet, sung by four reporters from The Weekly World News, extolling their latest scoops. I had selected several stories, then learned that the WWN stopped their print edition several years ago. Not wanting the instant disqualification, that idea was dropped (though we might pick it up later). Some folks have suggested we use the National Enquirer instead, but that would be like getting a glass of water when you asked for champagne. There is nothing as tawdry and cheap as the WWN.

William then wanted to do a war song (protest or anti-protest, depending on your point of view). I thought "Army of One" might be a good idea, with the theme revolving around troop reductions in Afghanistan. We could include some snare drum, which I'm not half bad at, and also get some use out of the electric guitar I bought a couple of weeks ago. William provided me with a lyric sheet entitled "News Real". It took the reporter angle and commented on several areas of the Middle East, but I thought it needed some focus. We found the focus by removing the US from the song entirely. I had a couple of stories from foreign sources: one dealing with the Israeli government spending a day in a nuclear fallout shelter, and others dealing with a rabbi on the West Bank who advocates the pre-emptive killing of gentiles by Jews.
Israeli Leaders Spend Day in Nation's Tunnel
Israel Must Maintain Itself As A Law-abiding State
Rabbi Jakov Yosef Endorses Killing Non-Jews
The idea for the new song was to eschew narrative entirely, focusing on only how we felt when reading those stories. As a result, I expect that we may have some negative commentary from the judges on the density of the lyrics. Our goal with these words is to make you feel, not to make you feel good. What we felt when reading the stories was not good. It was the sort of dread and helplessness mixed with determination that older Americans only remember from hiding under school desks in the Cold War (the real, scary Cold War... not fictional spy movies), and about which younger American know nothing at all. That may not be the best tactic in a competition, but it's where the song wanted to go.

Musically, a song about Israel cries out for a Phrygian Dominant scale, so I used it, though I fudge it a bit for Western ears. If you're wondering what the Phrygian Dominant scale is... well, it's what makes Jewish music sound Jewish. And as God is central to all things in the Middle East, He features prominently here.  This can only be done respectfully as a prayer, so the new piece is Prayer for Peace. I translated a number of lines into Hebrew, of which I know almost nothing, so any errors are mine alone. I'll add the translations in parentheses in the lyrics, but these parenthetical translations are not sung.

About the Hebrew phrases used... the first line of the chorus, "Sha'alu Shalom Yirushalayim" is "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem", as stated in Psalm 122:6. I further translated Jerusalem into English as "City of Peace" in the last line of the chorus so that an English-speaking audience can appreciate the irony of Jerusalem's name, give its history (I think the actual translation more like, "point out the way to peace"). In singing it, I'm not pronouncing the glottal stop in "sha'alu", but then again I've often heard it spoken without the stop. Though "shalom" does mean "peace", in Hebrew it has a larger sense of bringing restoration or completeness. The first verse is a recognition of every Israeli's duty to public service (including military service), so the name of the Lord invoked in the first chorus is "Adonai" (Lord).  The second chorus is a prayer for protection, so the name used is El Shaddai (God of All, or God of Sufficiency, but in the sense of God Almighty). The final chorus replaces the line with "Elohim hu ahava" ("God (on high) is Love") in part as a declaration, but in part as a reminder and rebuke to those Jews who advocate violence of their own.

(I've updated this twice meaning to add this comment, but didn't get around to it... in the verses you'll note repetition. Repetition is very important in Hebrew poetry. Often you'll see things repeated two or more times, often with synonyms and sometimes verbatim. That's what we're shooting for here. The bridge is sung, but in the first half of the following verse the vocals are silent in contemplation of the revelation in the bridge.)



PRAYER FOR PEACE
06/30/2011 by wmh and dfl

Every mother, every father
Every daughter and son
Pledges eternal vigilance
Until the victory is won
Pledges eternal vigilance
Until the victory is won

Sha'alu Shalom Yirushalayim
(pray for the peace of Jerusalem)
Halleluja Adonai
(praise to God, the Lord)
Sha'alu Shalom Yirushalayim
Pray for the peace of the City of Peace

Cradled in our Nation's Tunnel
In darkness as death rains from the sky
May the Lord protect us
That today we will not die
May the Lord protect us
That today we will not die

Sha'alu Shalom Yirushalayim
(pray for the peace of Jerusalem)
Halleluja El Shaddai
(praise to God, the God of All)
Sha'alu Shalom Yirushalayim
Pray for the peace of the City of Peace

I stand on the West Bank
Amid the pain and tears
As a rabbi prays for violence
I can't believe my ears
As a rabbi prays for violence
I can't believe my ears

May the Lord remind us
Not to spill our brothers' blood
May the Lord remind us
Not to spill our brothers' blood

Sha'alu Shalom Yirushalayim
(pray for the peace of Jerusalem)
Elohim hu ahava
(God is love)
Sha'alu Shalom Israel
Pray for the peace of Israel

Friday, June 24, 2011

My SpinTunes 3 Round 1 Favorites

click to vote!

Ask me my favorite SpinTunes 3 Round 1 song and I'll tell you "Wake Me When It's Over" by Dr. Lindyke (this is a competition... did you expect something else?). But OTHER than that, here are my (Dave's) top picks for the round:

(I created the graphic on the right as the album cover for the round. Of course, it's the Grim Reaper with a tambourine. I imagine he's dancing in a funeral procession in New Orleans. Click through vote and to download the album.)

Before I list them, let's take another look at the challenge: "Write a happy song about death".  This is pretty much the inverse of a previous SpinTunes challenge, "write a sad song about birth," and my approach here is the same.  There are two legs to stand on... it has to be happy, and it has to be about death. For instance, our song is about a terminal patient awaiting his imminent demise with sincere joy and expectation, so I'd say we met the challenge pretty well, and an unusual, spiritually satisfying approach.

Here's a sampling of the competitors I think best met the challenge:

Byron Blocker and the Offbeats - She's Dead

This song isn't a narrative, and it doesn't need to be. It's a simple expression of joy. Sure it's joy over someone's death, but that's the challenge, isn't it?  What makes this song stand out is that Byron's not causing the death. It just happens, and it's a windfall to the singer. Too many of the other contestants went for some sort of vengeance of the "I'm going to kill her" variety. I'd argue that vengeance may bring satisfaction, but you've got an uphill climb to show that it brings happiness. Byron avoids the trap by avoiding the narrative detail and focusing on the emotion... a great choice for this challenge.

Byron himself sounds like the Boogieman from "Nightmare Before Christmas", which just makes this really fun to listen to. I LIKE IT.

Edric Haleen - I Hope You Die

Edric takes a different approach in this manic bit of novelty. The singer is unquestionably miserable... most of the time... and it's due to his cheating, cold, wife. He can't bring himself to leave her. At the end of the song we get a taste of exactly how frigid and devoid of love his everyday existence is. But he has one thought that keeps him going, and what a thought! What keeps this in the "happy" category and well away from the visciousness of some other entries is that Edric's character never once considers killing her himself. This guy is a veritable saint, and he spends his day praying to be delivered from his suffering by some random act of God (or Nature, or a passing mugger, or...) The astounding part is that he manages to do this, not immersed in desperation, but basking in the joy of his imagination.

Edric, as usual, walks the slenderest of tightropes and manages to make it sound easy.

Charlie McCarron - Grandma and Grandpa

Wow. "Happy" covers a lot of ground, and with this song, Charlie McCarron treads where no other contestant dare. The story itself is tragic... Grandma and Grandpa go out in a canoe to watch the stars and see the sunrise. Having rowed too far, and being lost in the fog, they die. But the happiness of this song isn't in the narrative... it's in the moment, and it's in their contentment with each other and their acceptance of their fate. Viewed from their perspective, there is nothing tragic about this song in the slightest. The tears it brings are cleansing in a very good way. This song is truly creative and unique, setting it apart from the crowd.

Godz Poodlz - Wake At The Sunnyside

Leave it to Godz Poodlz to turn this challenge into a sales pitch! It's got it all... the party, the puns... this song manages to be happy through the simple expedient of flatly denying that death is a sad thing. When I die, I want Sunnyside Funeral Home to handle the arrangements. And I want the full treatment, including pony rides to the graveside and funnel cakes. How can I possibly go wrong... Sunnyside offers a lifetime guarantee!



So there are my favorites. If you're not on the list, it's not because I didn't like your song... I probably did. A lot. This was an awesome field of competitors. These folks are here because they managed to nail the spirit of the challenge with unique interpretations that relied on pure happiness unadulterated by a dark cloud; and they did it with really entertaining presentation.

WELL DONE!


.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wake Me When It's Over


UPDATE: I added some notes about the title after the lyrics.
UPDATE2: I finished the song bio with "The Rest of the Story"
This is our entry for SpinTunes 3, round 1 (click here to vote for it!). The challenge: Write a happy song about death. This begs for a novelty song, but Sammy Kablam challenged us to write an un-funny happy song. So we started thinking about all the different kinds of "happy" there are, and we hope we came up with a very pure, almost tearful bittersweet happy.

Here we're imagining a terminal patient telling his wife not to grieve for him, as he's genuinely and sincerely happy to die and go to heaven.

On a technical note... yep, we're aware that once again we switched genres halfway through the song. It goes from borderline gospel to a rumba. I like mixed genres... sue me. In this case, though, there's a practical reason. This challenge is really the inverted form of an earlier challenge (SpinTunes 1, Round 3: "Happy to Sad in 4 Seconds: Write a sad song about birth"), so here we're attempting to take you from sad to happy. Hence the bait-and-switch.

One last thing... this is under 3 minutes long as a gesture of mercy toward the judges. There are 60 contestants in round 1. If every song was only as long as this one, it would take them three hours just to listen to each song once.

WAKE ME WHEN IT'S OVER
-----------------------------------------

Babe, you know I’m leaving
I’m going home
I can hear my name called in the light
I don’t want you grieving
There’s no need for tears
Everything will turn out right

Celebrate the moments of our lives
Celebrate the memories that you keep
The answers to your questions
Surely lie above
Now it’s time for me to sleep

Wake me when it’s over
Have a party while I’m growin’ colder
And maybe cry into your beer
Because you think that I’m not there

But...
I’ve got a first-class ticket into Paradise
And if you love me you will see me, just close your eyes
And we will spend eternity
In love so endlessly
And when the living ends you’ll see
It’s never over

[instrumental]

I’ve got a first-class ticket to the afterlife
And we’ll forever be together when it comes your time
And we will spend eternity
Bathed in love so endlessly
‘Cause when your life is done you’ll see
It’s never over


ABOUT THE TITLE:

I've heard feedback from several people that the name of this song should be "It's Never Over". Generally the reason given is the same reasoning you'd use to argue that "Camptown Races" should have been named "Doo-Dah". I don't find such arguments terribly compelling; but the sentiment is prevalent enough that I'm going to take a moment to defend and explain the name.

The song starts sadly, on purpose. Death is a sad thing for most people. The aim of the song is to take you FROM that sadness TO the happiness of life after death. The song is not a snapshot of the mood of happiness: it's a transition into that mood. It's a realization that death isn't sad ending at all; rather, it's a new beginning. You can't communicate that if you give away the denoument in the title. It would be like writing a murder "mystery" and entitling it, "The Butler Did It". So,
whatever the best title for this piece should be, "It's Never Over" certainly isn't it.

"Wake Me When It's Over" appears once in the song, but it's not incidental. It is
the pivotal moment at which the song turns from sad to happy. Through the inclusion of the pun on "Wake", it hints at happiness without giving away the ending; and it implies there's a continuation -- a new awakening -- after it's "over". In other words, it communicates that "over" doesn't mean the end. "It's Never Over" in the title would imply that there is no death, and that's not the song's message. The real message, and that which is communicated by "Wake Me When It's Over", is that there is a new beginning.

So, while I appreciate the feedback, I'm keeping my title because it's quite honestly better.


There's a little more to this story which I'll add later today. 

and now, THE REST OF THE STORY:

As I mentioned at the top of this post, Sammy Kablam challenged us to make this an un-funny song. That, however, didn't happen before we had come up with several alternative ideas. Among them...
  • A man dies and goes to Hell, but it's better than the Hell-on-Earth that his wife is putting him through. This is an inversion of the "I'm glad she's dead" theme that turned out to be so very popular in the competion.
  • A happy song about Death. This idea would have the Grim Reaper take a holiday. The only plots we could think of for this idea were funny, but not happy (and there is a difference, although I'm apparently in a minority of people who recognize it. Many of the SpinTunes entries are funny, but cruel or vindictive rather than happy). 
  • A bolt of lightning strikes an Irish wake, killing all of the participants. That doesn't slow them down, though: they continue the party on the other side, and you can join them when you die.
 The last is what we were planning to do before accepting Sammy's challenge (which was possibly a very bad move on our part... there will be eleven eliminations and we're competing with a lot of hilarity). It would have been drunken and exhuberant. The title was a deliberate pun on the word "Wake", and really did describe the story in that the wake occurs after their deaths. Then we switched gears, and the title is all that remains of that idea.

You could fairly conclude that my earlier explanation was simply a retcon if not for the fact that the title did shape the song that we wound up creating, and was the first line of the song that was written. The song actually grew in two directions from that line. The "happy" second part (after the line) was written first. The reassuring first part of the song was written last, when we realized that for narrative reasons we needed to say why the singer is imparting this message. The intent was as described above, and the sentiment was inspired by my own mother's demeanor as she approached her death. She filled the air with expectation and excitement.

If you look closely at the two choruses (if you can call them that), you'll see that they differ as well. In the first, the singer is singing about his loved ones' life without him; in the second, he's singing about their deaths.


So, while my previous explanation of the title is accurate, it was incomplete. The title is also an appendix left over from a previous idea, a bit of evolution in amber which may yet see renewed life... after all, it's never over. 

And that's the rest of the story.