Monday, February 11, 2013

Cock Fight

UPDATE: Voting is closed, and of course we didn't win the round. The judges had a ... ahem ... unique perspective on our expression of team spirit, to which we've crafted a musical rebuttal (NSFW link).

OK, for Round 2 of SpinTunes 6, we have this challenge:
Song Fight - Write a fight song for your favorite sports TEAM.  It doesn't have to be a professional team.  This should be about the team, not 1 or 2 athletes working together. (1 minute minimum) (your submission is due February 10th 11:59PM)
Sports teams are not the center of my existence. I think it's fair to say that I'd be hard pressed to name a favorite team, but as William and I attended the University of South Carolina, we're honor-bound to support them above all others. So the Carolina Gamecocks it is.

The only real question is, given a team with a name like the Cocks, how were we to approach the subject? The answer is, we're going low. As low as possible. On our knees, as it were.



The lyrics and music are on Bandcamp. The only thing you really need to know is that there is absolutely nothing in here that is merely a dick joke. Even the rude flavor of the song is 100% in keeping with our school spirit. We've had T-Shirts on campus that say "My Cock is Smelley" (referring to Chris Smelley, our former starting quarterback). We've had bumper stickers and T-shirts that say "You Can't Lick Our Cocks" and "You Can't Beat Our Cocks" (expressed in our lyrics as "Our Cocks are un-beat-a-ble").

There is a reference to our collegiate rival, the Clemson Tigers (referred to in the song as "those pussies"). That's at my insistence. As Carolina is currently enjoying a four-game winning streak over Clemson, I felt the song could be more than just a fight song... it could be a fight song for a specific occasion, and the next Carolina-Clemson game is "it".

I find that the most horrible challenges are the ones that stretch you the most, and that's what this competition is about. It's not about winning, it's about doing things that you never would have done otherwise. That was true of the previous "most excremental" challenge (writing a rap song), and it's true of this one.

In this case, I had to get my head into the testosterone-laden aggressive mindset of sports fans. I thought I had an advantage here in that my kids are in their high school band, and they would line up some friends to help perform. So I set aside my early plans to do a baseball song (so I could play the organ), and started preparing for a football fight song, and researched the subject.

PROBLEM ONE: as it turns out, fight songs are short. I mean they're really, really short. Thirty seconds is not uncommon. Carolina's official fight song "Step to the Rear" is of above-average length at just over one minute. That includes a drum break and a reprise. Our challenge originally specified 1:45. So, armed with some stats from fightmusic.com I took to Facebook to make my case. A lot of the other artists had the same complaint, and we were successful in getting the length shortened to one minute. Still long, but palatable. I thank everyone who helped with that, and Spintown for agreeing to the change. (BTW, if you want to hear a great fight song, listen to Step to the Rear. It beats the p.o.s. I just wrote hands-down.)

PROBLEM TWO: My son informed me that they'd be happy to play the song, but they needed sheet music. So I proceeded to score the entire song. And being somewhat ignorant of high school bands, despite being a songwriter, I asked what sort of instruments I'd need to score. The answer was: Piccolo. Flute. Clarinet. Trumpet. Mellophone. Trombone. Alto sax. Baritone sax. Euphonium. Tuba. Bass drum. Snare drum. Crash cymbals. Tenor drums.

That's a lot of instruments, and I didn't even know their proper ranges. OK. I wanted the kids. So I started writing. Initially I used Rosegarden, but it had a heart attack or something, and not having the time to fix it AND get the work done AND do my day job, I switched over to MuseScore. Nice, but the sound wouldn't play in Linux. I scored a lot of it using the piano, then rolled up my sleeves and fixed MuseScore. (the Jack server has never worked properly for me, probably due to my ignorance. I admit it: I don't know Jack). So now I could score it and play it back to get some feel of how it would sound when played by the band (albeit my rendition was with crappy MIDI sounds). Everything was ready for Saturday's recording session.

PROBLEM THREE: The band bailed. No band. And my whole week was spent writing parts. And since I normally perform live, any MIDI on my computer was rudimentary.

Nevertheless, the deadline wouldn't change, so now was a perfect time to put Plan B into action. Plan B was to render the MIDI with soundfonts. I installed some soundfonts, and they did sound a lot better. Not great, though, because I still lost performance dynamics. And MuseScore, while it's great for describing a song to a human, isn't so great at rendering a performance, especially with percussion.  So I broke the song out into instrumental parts and had MuseScore export them all to .mid files. I then used VLC to render these with soundfonts as FLAC files, and from there they got converted to WAV files that my DAW, (Reaper, running in Wine) would understand.

PROBLEM FOUR: Percussion. Percussion is the bane of my musical existence. No matter what I did in MuseScore, the percussion sucked. So it was off to the Hydrogen drum machine. This thing is really great. You tell it what you want for each instrument including the velocity of the drumstick. The only problem I had with it is that I had some issue with the timing. It was simply the wrong tempo and resisted efforts to change it. And it's Saturday. Convinced that I was being stalked by gremlins, and on the verge of blaming Heather, I decided to play the drums myself. So that's me on the snare and the tenor drums (I don't really have tenor drums, so these are toms). The bass drums are done by laboriously pasting a single "thump!" over and over again into Reaper. So were the crash cymbals. In the case of both the bass and the crash, I manipulated things a bit so they didn't sound as robotic as they might otherwise have. They still sound fake, but it's not nail-bitingly horrid.

I had more luck with the vocals. Besides me, there are my two kids, one brother, and two Boffo Yux Dudes and Joe 'Covenant' Lamb appearing. Denise Hudson agreed to help me with the audience sounds. When it was clear that the "crowd" wouldn't sound right without more female voices, my Facebook shout-out netted quick responses from Jenny Katz-Brandoli, Heather Gray, Ashleen Curtis, Nancy Ware, and Kimberly Johnson. Thanks to all contributors!

Michael Leigh
Timothy Leigh
William Leigh
Everett Leigh
Tom Giarosso
Joe 'Covenant' Lamb
Allan Morgan                                           
Jenny Katz-Brandoli
Heather Gray
Ashleen Curtis
Nancy Ware
Kimberly Johnson



--==//==--

This is probably the best organized song I've ever done, if not the most memorable. Since a lot of this was either rendered or from submissions, I didn't have a lot of orphaned takes cluttering up the directories. Still, the sheer volume of tracks is way too much for my dinky machine to handle, so I had to break it out into sub-projects. There's a sub-project for the male vocals; the East grandstand audience; the West grandstand audience; the percussion; and the rest of the band. To keep everything aurally consistent, I had to create a chart showing where each instrument was physically situated with regard to the listener, and adjusted the pan accordingly. There's stadium echo off the far wall, so allowances are made for the relative distances from the wall. I'd never claim it as a production masterpiece, but rendering, performing, and mixing several dozen tracks was quite a lot of work for one ignoramus on a Saturday; I'm pretty happy with it.

--==//==--

Since you've read this far, I'll give you the lyrics, along with some notes on "plausible deniability"

COCK FIGHT

We are the mighty Cocks!
Indeed... the University of South Carolina Gamecocks!
We have impressive jocks!
Indeed, the athletes of USC are talented and highly skilled 
Champions true it is plain to see

Four years straight we've licked those pussies
You betcha! Our feline foes, the Clemson Tigers!
We'll tear down their defence
They said no, but they meant YES!
We will not take no for an answer!
We'll thrust our balls into the end zone!
Touchdown!
GO! GAME! COCKS!

"GO!"
"COCKS!"
"GO!"
"COCKS!"

We'll dominate them all
Our Cocks are un-beat-a-ble

OK, that's a little hyperbole... a number of teams have licked our Cocks, but our team spirit remains undiminished! Seriously, this refers to the bumper stickers on campus that read "You Can't Beat Our Cocks"
Pounding again into the end zone!
Another touchdown!
GO! GAME! COCKS!

GO COCKS!

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