Monday, February 10, 2014

Why?

This is our entry for Spintunes 8, Round 1. The challenge:
"Missing You - Write a song to someone you miss, but can't be with anymore. (2 minute minimum) (your submission is due Sunday, February 9th 11:59PM)"
Lyrics are by William, as usual, and the music is from me. Commentary after the lyrics:



WHY
wmh 2.2.14 

Time seems to wave goodbye to the past 
But what does time hold for a man like me? 
I've little to lose and nothing to gain 
And all I have now are these memories 

Lost in a cascade of my dreams 
From long ago until today 
The friends I made in my youth 
Have long since drifted away 

Why does it have to happen? 
Why did it happen to us? 
Why can’t the hour glass let us be? 
Why can’t the sundial turn to dust? 

Seems I remember you from just yesterday 
You must be the friend I knew long ago 
Aren't you the one I met as a child? 
I believe what I believe ‘cause I know 
I believe what I believe 'cause it's so 

In years gone by I've questioned creation 
But the answer was as easy as Pi 
All life’s legacy is a circle 
We shall all live life and then die 

Why does it have to happen? 
Why did it happen to us? 
Why can’t the hour glass let us be? 
Why can’t the sundial turn to dust? 

Seems I remember you from just yesterday 
You must be the friend I knew long ago 
Aren't you the one I met as a child? 
I believe what I believe ‘cause I know 
I believe what I believe 'cause it's so


Musical Notes:

Much of what there is to say about this song was said in my previous post [link]. But then again, that post doesn't really say much about this song at all.

As I mentioned before, we've met this challenge a number of times. Over the years we've had friends die in accidents, from suicide, from drugs, in battle. We've moved away, drifted apart, changed schools, jobs, and cities. The challenge for us, then, wasn't to write to this topic, but to do it in a way we hadn't before. I wanted to avoid death as a topic, in part because we're still recovering from a death in the family.

We had originally discussed a number of ideas, including variations of all of those I listed above. We even entertained the idea of someone who was happy to sent off to prison. In the end we agreed the theme would be "best friends". Each verse would be a different best friend, and each verse would end with a move, or a change of school or job, that sort of thing. The chorus would then come after each verse, and would assure the listener that the world keeps turning, Life goes on, and there's always someone new around the corner.

The lyrics I got from William weren't anything like that. In fact, they went pretty much where I didn't want to go. But they're what I had, so I finished the song and submitted it. I change his stuff around so much I can't complain if he uses an idea as an "inspiration" for something a bit different.

In this case the song is a fairly standard lament about loss.

  • The first verse sets up the hopeless feeling from the loss of a loved one
  • The second verse is about the isolation you feel when you rely on one person who is now missing.
  • The pre-chorus justifies the title. Everyone asks these questions.
  • The chorus hits the challenge. The song must be addressed to the person you miss. In this case it's left purposely ambiguous so that you can assign personal meaning. Did we meet as "children" (literally) or "as" children (in younger days)? Do I remember you "as if" it were yesterday, or was it really yesterday that we last spoke? What do I believe? The line, "I believe what I believe 'cause it's so" is there to allow the listener to take comfort in his belief, whatever it might be.
  • The third verse acknowledges that the singer has questioned "creation", which could be questioning religion, or using "creation" as a euphemism for the Universe; but those questions are evidently resolved to his satisfaction. It's left unsaid what "the answer" is, and the listener is tasked with filling that in for himself. The answer is easy as "pie" in the sung lyrics, but "pi" as written. You're justified in interpreting this according to your own beliefs. The end of this verse is a nod to the Circle of Life and the inevitability of mortality. 

Musically, this is simply piano, drums and voice. I searched a bit for proper orchestration, but decided in the end to just use more voice. The song's a little slow, not just because it's about death (I have others on the subject that are pretty lively), but to leave room for the rather complicated rhythms later on. Though it sounds as if it changes tempo, it's a solid 110 bpm throughout. The first full minute is a repetitive tick-tock played on the piano, to remind us of the slow passage of time. This theme is held throughout, except for the chorus.It introduces the third verse, and plays us out as well. I hope it's not boring.

I went for some powerful sustained notes in the chorus to help the piano sound bigger than it is. I'm a little hamstrung by the fact that my keyboard's audio output is broken, so I can't put this through a decent amp or A/D converter. I have to record everything from its built-in speakers through a microphone, and then compensate with equalization. When writing the minimalist orchestration, I considered that Elton John toured Russia with only his piano and a percussionist. I'm no Elton, but surely it depends on the song, and this song is written for that kind of treatment.

The drums are a chopped-up, re-cut full-length loop from Jim Dooley. Hopefully they're arranged to again make the piano sound "bigger" than it is. Once the work had been done I realized the song was too slow, and sped it up about 10%, going back and patching where necessary, and re-recording the piano and vocals. That's me on the backing vocals as well.

Now, in saying "fairly standard lament", that's not to say that it doesn't have some power, as I learned personally (read the previous post). Formulas and ambiguity do their job well... well enough that I myself found it creepy how well the song fit the loss of two people very close to me, even though I didn't write the lyrics at all.

A Tribute

I learned after the song was written that this round of SpinTunes would be a tribute to Randy Christopher, aka "RC", who was a frequent participant in SpinTunes and the winner of SpinTunes 7. I was privileged to be one of the judges for that contest.

Normally, the winner becomes a judge in the following contest. Sadly, RC was taken from us before that. So all of the songs, gathered, are dedicated to the memory of Randy Christopher and presented to his family and friends. Click on the picture below to listen to and download the album.


As I mentioned, We've lost a few friends, and all of them were on our minds as we wrote our entry. So we'd like to dedicate our entry to Randy Christopher, but also in equal measure to  Lillian Cribbe, Bill Hoover, Bradley Mayo, Deston Lee,Terrell Cribbe, Keith Miller, Brian Melton, and all of those friends and family who we miss, and can't be with anymore.

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