Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Reviews (and next challenge) Are In - Spintunes 8 Round 1

Our entry for the first round of Spintunes 8 was "Why?" [song bio]

Well, the reviews are in and the rankings are totaled, and we came in 5th place in that round, comfortably moving on to the next.

Here's what the judges had to say.

Daniel Caldwell put us in 8th place (22 points), and had this to say:
I really, REALLY liked this one. That piano is beautiful (reminded me of some of the music from the show LOST), and the layering of the “ahs” under the main vocal part is excellent. When the song picks up, I start dancing in my seat a little bit. I have nothing negative to say. Splendid work.
That is the best review we've received for a round, probably ever. I have nothing negative to say. We were still ranked 8th, and that's perfectly OK, because I think there were a lot of better songs.

Paul Potts also had us in 8th place (22 points).
Dave's vocal performance on this track is quite lovely and nuanced, although the harmony "aaaah" seem to be a bit off-pitch here and there. The lyrics are up to Dr. Lindyke's usual high standard. It's touching that Dave dedicated the song to RC. I've listened to this song at least five times, and I'm still a little unclear about how I feel the drums. Sometimes they seem just a little too busy to me, particularly the kicks, but then on another listen they seem just right, and they seem to keep the song propelled along. I can't quite decide. It's an interesting choice. This is one of the stronger tracks, but maybe not quite in the very top few.
Paul ranked us just above Jenny Katz (which I think is insane, but such are musical tastes, but I'll say more on that sort of thing below). His comment about the drums is insightful. This piece has only two instruments, the piano and the drums. The piano arrangement is intended to be reminiscent of a ticking clock (which you'd usually do in percussion), so the roles of these instruments are somewhat reversed. I didn't want to do a bunch of orchestration, to keep the loss "personal", so was attempting to use the drums to sound as if they were "more than what they are"  [song bio]. See Joe's review, below.

So yeah, those drums are used in a slightly odd way, but I think it's pretty much what I was going for.

Katharina Bordet had us in 3rd place (27 points)
This could have done with mixing the voice in louder as well as going a bit bolder with the singing. All in all a really nice song, very sad though, but the feeling was captured well in music and lyrics. I really like the song but the end I LOVE. I wish he would’ve gone there sooner. 
I was surprised to see us ranked this high, in large part for reasons I'm about to explain. But again, such are musical tastes. Katharina focused on the chorus, which I was glad to see, because I quite like it myself. I've heard from a number of people that the song was slow at the outset (see Joe's review below), but I've got a little bee in my bonnet re: our society's recent tendency of treating music and drama like fast food. We go to a movie these days and there's no character development, no nuance in the plot. The opening scene has an explosion just like every other scene. Music is much the same way... Artists start with the "hook" and stay there. For me... boooring.

Now, I've judged these and I knew that we were taking a deliberate risk when writing it. In the first round a judge has 30 or so songs to rank, and you're asking for it if you don't get to the point really early. I felt that the risk was adequately balanced by the payoff in the chorus.

This song takes its time. It starts with just sedate piano, then piano + "ahhs", then the drums kick in at about a minute and a half. So the song's really not going good until you've getting 3/4 of the way to the minimum time limit. That's a slow build-up  But that was done for artistic reasons. The kind of loss addressed by the song isn't something you get over easily. I'm really glad to see Katharina and the other judges get past that, even as they experienced some understandable impatience.

Joe 'Covenant' Lamb had us in 8th place (22 points)
Elton... I mean, Dave shows up with a steady number... but a bit too steady, If it lost a verse from the start and get to the build a little quicker, and then lost a verse from the end.... a good song, but too long to make a sharp and fast impact. (The chorals worked in the opening, but seemed to jar during the multi instrument sections.)
Quick correction here. "Dave" doesn't show up with anything. Dr. Lindyke does, and that's Dave Leigh & William Hoover. I'm the vocal guy in the public eye; I'm the Penn to his Teller. William is sort of the "invisible partner", not having any social media presence whatsoever, but he provides the core of the songs. We talk about ideas, but ultimately the choice of topic, the plot, and the words are his. I'm here to enhance whatever emotion that I see in the words. He provides the heart, and I provide the logic to make the message understood. Ironically, he uses the tools of logic and I use the tools of emotion to play our respective parts. We'd write a song explaining it, but... oh wait! We did! And Joe's on it! ["Invisible Man" - link]

I was overjoyed to see Joe refer to "multi instrument sections". There are just drums and piano, and no others. As I mentioned in commenting on Paul's review above, my intent was to make the piano seem to be "more than what it is". It appears that, at least in Joe's case, I was successful.

David Ritter puts us 21st place (9 points)
Not a fan of the piano sound.  Need more forward placement in the vocal tone production- Especially in the upper registers.  The vocals get choked up there.  The mix isn't very full. Very thin.  Drums and cymbals in this one get very distracting - 1.5
David actually puts us where I thought we'd be when I listened to the round. My piano's line out is broken, so I'm having to mic it very close to the small built-in speaker and try to compensate with equalization. The end result is, I think, kid of muddy. And I wasn't pleased with any of my vocal takes... this one is the least horrific. The minimal instrumentation and drums were deliberate; but as I've already said, I thought we were taking a risk anyway. I don't fault David for his critique or his ranking. Very fair.

Max Finsettler put us in 8th place (22 points)
I feel bad rating this song so low, because I can't say there's anything especially wrong with it. I just believe other songs were better. Why? 'Cause I know. Granted, "knowing" and "believing" are kind of entirely different concepts, but you get what I mean...apparently.
I know the feeling. In every round there are songs that you feel are perfectly fine for what they are, but are overshadowed by more memorable, more clever, snappier, better-produced entries. I don't feel bad at all being ranked down for that, and to be perfectly frank, 8th place isn't getting ranked very far down. It's better than I had anticipated, and maybe worse than what William did... but he's biased.

Max's "knowing" and "believing" comments aren't cryptic or weird, but a clever play on the lyrics of our piece.

We were shooting for pretty much what we got, although my insecurities placed us closer to the bottom at the listening party. When all's said and done and all the rankings are averaged, we scooted into 5th place, although we were most often ranked 8th.

I expected this, through some quirky math I've noticed over the years. Songs which are simply competently crafted tend to be ranked pretty consistently at the middle of the pack. Because they don't call much attention to themselves, they gain that position by neither sucking nor excelling. But the songs that are truly artistic expressions of "big ideas" are those that tend to either strike a chord in the listener or miss it entirely. You love them or hate them. As a result, the songs that rank above the middle-of-the-pack are different for each judge. And the songs in the bottom quartile tend to be fairly consistently ranked as well. Apparently people are better able to agree on what they don't like than what they like. When the scores are averaged, the crafted songs tend to benefit from that numerical cavitation at the top and rise a little bit. I tried to explain the math to William before this round was totaled, and I think he thought I was nuts.

Well, I am, but that has nothing to do with my math.

What did surprise me, very much, were the songs that were rated below us. Edric's entry is both artistic and crafted, so it deserves to be at the top, but so do others. For the record, here are some artists who I personally thought should have scored consistently above us, but didn't.

Ryan M. Brewer
Jenny Katz-Brandoli
Brian 'Mandy Patinkin' Gray
Zoe Gray
Ominous Ride

Your mileage may vary.

Moving On...

The next challenge is in, and I don't like it, which means it's probably pretty good:
Disdain In The Refrain - Write a hate song about someone. (2 minute minimum) (your submission is due by Sunday February 23rd 11:59PM)
I'm not fond of the entire concept of deliberately hatin'. But I do have a suggestion. It'll be interesting to see if William runs with it.


Joe Covenant said...

Ahem... 'Dave' showed up... William didn't... In fact, you say it yourself.. "Invisible Partner"... QED! ;' )

Dave Leigh said...

"Invisible" doesn't mean "absent". It means "you don't see him".
So there.

Anonymous said...

This is cool.

I've been around for a few years now and have developed so many thoughts about the judging process. It was very interesting to read your thoughts on it.

-H Gray

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