Sunday, February 1, 2015

SpinTunes 10 Round 2: Happy Anniversary My Darling

Last round saw us in fifth place out of a field of thirty-three. Not a terrible lead-in to Round Two.
Here's the new challenge:
Music To My Fears - Write a scary song, basically explore the horror genre in music format. (2 minute minimum length) (your submission is due Sunday, February 1st 11:59PM) 
Examples: "Creepy Doll" by Jonathan Coulton; "Dragula" by Rob Zombie
We weren't terribly inspired by the scariness of the examples given. "Dragula" has all the fear factor of Count Chocula or Booberry. "Creepy Doll" is basically comedy. The best way to make something not creepy is to flatly say it is. The rule of thumb is show, don't tell. Even in a campfire story, let the descriptions lead the listener to conclude that something is frightening, or creepy, or gross. More than half of horror takes place inside the skull of the audience.

We've already done a number of songs that I think were better examples of horror than these, including "Blood Moon" and "There's an Earwig", "Stained Glass", and of course, "Dr. Lindyke". So we're giving it another try.

Horror tends toward the supernatural these days, but the core of the genre isn't ghosts, ghouls, monsters, or slashers... it's the emotion of horror.  The dictionary defines it as "an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust." Where "terror" is fear that something terrible is about to happen, "horror" is the fear that it might happen or the realization that it did. Terror is in the present; horror is everywhere else. Vampires and werewolves don't strike me as frightening because I know they don't exist. But psychopathic killers and necrophiliacs are another story. So a personal goal is to keep this horror story grounded in the possible, avoiding the supernatural.


Happy Anniversary, My Darling
--------------------------------------

Forget the morning, ignore the breaking light
All that lies before us transpired in the night
We've long been undisturbed by the events that we surround
But there's a time for everything and the time for this is now

I approach with much conviction, gilded shovel in my hand
To open up my heart, just to cover it with sand
And with all the things you've told me, the denials and the lies
I feel as though your motive is to bury me alive


There's a key to all this method, but I keep it safe from harm
Along with all the passions that you'd smother in your arms
There's a cold and lonely winter contained within your heart
Made into breathless summer when we have been apart


To preserve our endless love
We tore our lives asunder
In the wisdom we've been offered
Absence makes the heart grow fonder


And so we had to sever
The passion from the pain
The discord from the rapture
The spirit from the frame

But Darling, true love never dies...
And Darling I will love you 'til the end
And Darling, when this night of love is through
I will bury you again.


I will bury you...

Again.


Lyrical Notes

In a Hitchcockian approach, we borrow the exposition technique from Psycho, exploring the motives of the villain and revealing nothing certain until the last line, which revises our understanding of all the lines that came before. While listening you're to think it's just another passionate love song. The horror of it is an aftertaste. It's the realization of what's just happened under your nose. It's not the sort of thing that paralyzes you with fear... rather, the more you think about it, the worse it gets.

One form of horror is the revulsion we feel when we see evil. I think that the best horror stories remind you that evil is a parody of good. The greatest evil results from the perversion of the greatest good, and what could be better than true love? We based our horror story on a terrible twisting of unshakeable devotion and fidelity.

For inspiration, William suggested we look to the strange obsession of Dr. Carl von Cosel. You can see a video account here,  or read about the case. Basically, it's a story of necrophilia. Dr. von Cosel of Key West, enamoured with a deceased patient named Elena Hoyos, attempted to preserve her body in his own home, where he fancied her as his wife and had relations with her decaying flesh for seven years. The most horrible aspect about a story like this isn't the corpse... it's the twisted mind of the obsessed doctor... the fact that he could look upon this hideous parody with love, and even lust. What makes it worse is not just that it can happen, but did.

We really didn't look to write some tribute to von Cosel; rather, we took it as inspiration to create a backstory for our own composition. We imagine a married couple with a fiery, if argumentative, relationship. Rationalizing that distance will intensify their passion and that their love is eternal and transcendent; the man kills his wife and buries her. Then on special occasions he disinters her for a conjugal visit, hence the title.

I often say there are two kinds of songs, "mood" and "story". This one's sort of both. Though you're intended to believe that the golden shovel is metaphorical, his "heart" is his wife, and he kills her with the blade of the spade. He literally severs her spirit from her frame. Hopefully the ambiguity will have the listener relating to the protagonist only to find at the end that he's the murderer.

Musical Notes

Musically, it's actually pretty simple repetition (i-III-VI-v). Since the story itself occurred in the 1930s, this alludes to the sort of melodramatic style of the period. Not a copy of the style, but reminiscent of it.

All the verses are similar, but gradually escalate to that forceful chorus at the end where we finally witness a change in the chord progression, to (iv-VII-i). Then, passion spent, the last line is a capella. I shouldn't need to tell you why.

I considered orchestration but rejected it. It's recorded with nothing at all but a piano. I imagine our protagonist actually serenading his beloved at a piano in his home, much as Dr. von Cosel played the organ for his Elena.


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