Thursday, August 9, 2012

Carbon Footprint

Once again, here's the challenge.

Photo Finish - Write a song inspired by the photo below:

(2 minute minimum) (your submission is due August 12th 11:59PM)

We had a lot of ideas for this round, ranging from Bigfoot vacationing at the beach to Robinson Crusoe. The reason I'm calling this one a "safety song" is because it was just really easy and I suspect a few people will have similar ideas.

What we see in the photo is the last footprint of the last human as he returns to the ocean... beginning an evolutionary "do-over". We imagine this to take place in the future, when the greenhouse effect and global warming have caused all the icecaps to melt and the only land remaining is the very tip of Mount (now island) Everest. Never mind that there's not enough water on the entire Earth to make that happen. And don't ask how humans voluntarily grow gills and fins. This is a  song. It's all symbolic, man... you dig?

(P.S. this might have been influenced ever-so-slightly by the movie Prometheus)

More after the lyrics.

Carbon Footprint
by Dr. Lindyke

Uncle Darwin, can you see
What is happening to me?
We're starting over

Things have been heating up for years
The rampant greenhouse of our fears
And though the Third World said they didn't start the fires
They fueled them with their sweat and tears

Now on the shore
We say goodbye
To withered hills
And dust-laden sky
And it's getting hard to breathe
We're going to the sea

In the ocean depths we'll dwell
Fins and gills will do just swell
And whether we'll return to see the light of day
Only Time can truly tell

[musical interlude]

Here on Everest Island
I write our wisdom in the sand
So you may know of us, and the measure of our worth
Before the tide reclaims the land

Now on the shore
We say goodbye
To withered hills
And dust-laden sky
And it's getting hard to breathe
We're going to the sea

Lyrical Notes

The "Uncle Darwin" in the first verse is due to the preference of my oldest son. I tried a few things here, and am perfectly aware that if he were my uncle, he'd be "Charles". I didn't want the audience to miss the reference, though. I wanted to plant the idea that this was de-evolution, not merely a migration to underwater habitats. Nobody says "evolution" better than Darwin. Of course, I then go on to explicitly say "evolutionarily". Suspenders and a belt.

The line about the Third World alludes to a future in which, even if the First World countries were to immediately reduce their carbon footprint to negligibility, increasing industrialization of the rest of the world continues to escalate the problem.

I like the idea of pairing the obviously comedic lyrics with completely serious music and delivery, so that's what's going on here. We're going for a very melancholy feel, bolstered by lyrics about writing our "wisdom in the sand"... where, of course, the wind and tide will obliterate all traces of it. Such is our impact on the Universe. If you think about it, were the greenhouse effect to truly take hold, as it did on Venus, then all of the waters would evaporate into eternal cloud cover, meaning that even this last-ditch evolutionary tactic would be doomed. Pleasant thought, isn't it?

Update: I was just asked a question about the rhyme scheme.  "Why AAAB in the first verse and AABA in the rest?" Well, the first verse is an introduction. There's not a lot of space between it an the next verse, and I wanted that bit of silence. It doesn't sound right to me to have the same rhyme scheme there. I also wanted to use that one word, "Evolutionarily" as an entire line, and that was the nicest way to get it in there. You have to remember that I usually get the lyrics first and write to them. I enjoy adjusting the music to the words and don't feel any particular need to keep it all consistent. Sometimes it's semi-through-composed... similar but varied.

Musical Notes

Yes, that is a touch of "production" in the choral vocals. Mainly it's just EQ to get rid of any bass, and a buttload of reverb.  The vocals in the verses have a bit of reverb added as well, to get it a bit closer to the piano. I did have the vocals lower in the mix, but my wife always complains about that, so if they're a little hot, blame her.

I think I confused her a bit with what I did with the drums. I did a bit of meticulous programming of the drums this time. Problem is, it sounded like a drum machine. So I chopped up the measures and shoved them around a little bit. Not much... just the tiniest fractional bit. But it's enough to get it out of the "uncanny valley" and sound like a human did it.  So yeah, the drums sound shitty on purpose. I went to a lot of trouble to make them sound imperfect.

In the intro we start with an implied Fm+9 (the F is mute in the treble clef) and we move immediately to the F-minor and then progress to C-major. That, coupled with the heavy snare, is a little auditory indicator that you should expect something just a little odd.

I alternate the use of an Eb and an Em+11w5 in the chorus. It's an attempt to get that melancholy feel I talked about earlier. The first time through it's in the major. It doesn't stay there, though, because I want you to question whether this is serious or not, or at least toy with the idea that even though it's comedic it may also be deep (in more ways than one).

I ran out of both time and ideas for the "instrumental" (labeled "musical interlude" in this song). So I left it alone and simply added the sounds of surf, gulls, and dolphins. I reprised that (in revised form) under the second chorus/outro. 

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