Monday, April 30, 2018

Far Away

For SpinTunes #14, Round 3, the challenge was to write a contemporary song based on a classical music selection. Since this is a shadow, we re-worked a set of older lyrics of William's. Technically it would be disqualified, I think... or arguably not, as the end result is a new work written for the contest. He'd been dissatisfied with the original tune I'd given them, as it was a bit somber. He'd been bugging me about "fixing" it anyway, and it just so happened that they precisely fit the tune I was aching to do for this challenge... The Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss.

I originally envisioned this with a vaguely Caribe rhythm, but sometimes the song gets the last say. This one really wanted to be Mack the Knife. I finally threw up my hands and decided to go with a swing beat, choosing the style of Count Basie with Bobby Darrin style vocals. The end result was a bit goofy, but suddenly turned charming when I added harmony backing vocals from Heather Zink, who has this delightful Doris Day quality to her voice. In my view, she saved it from being buried in cheese.

The rhythm, guitars and horns are just auto-generated by an algorithm. I didn't spend much time on that. The only thing I was careful about was the piano and vocals. I wanted to make sure that at least in the opening verses I got the little piano hits that confirm for us that this is based on the Blue Danube waltz. I dropped them in the later verses in favor of some more jazzy riffs, because style. I didn't write any of this down, preferring to play directly from Strauss' notation, converting it to 4/4 time on the fly and using the chord progression as my framework. Very little of that sheet music winds up in the finished product. Early verses have the tune based on Strauss, again abandoned later to just work around the chords because the point had already been made. I figure I'll just let the listener make the connections from that point forward. The chorus is original, with only the first two notes being taken from the second movement of Strauss' piece.

Lyrically, the song decided to do its own thing, too. Originally the lovers don't wind up together, but are pining. But with the change in atmosphere, that changed, too. So we get a sweet little ending.

lyrics by William Hoover

Everyday lately
I see you smiling
But every day's gray
When you are gone
Love's in the way
When I try to find you
It's so easy to say
When alone
And you seem far away.

A kiss was so pleasing
Early this morning
It changes the season
From cloudy to sun
Whatever the reason
I've never stopped soaring
And I'll never be leaving
As one
To lose you far away.

Far away
You've taken me
So far away
And if I had the chance today
I'd still choose reality
Far away
You've taken me
So far away
And I'll always be
With you
So far away.

All of my time
Is spent trying to tell you
All that these rhymes
Just can't convey
The place isn't mine
You say to surround you
Still I can't find the line
That will say
Don't be too far away.

You try to believe
There's something about this
That will not deceive
Our open hearts
I've tried to relieve
All of your doubts with
A soft touch and ease
But there are scars
On our hearts from far away.

Empty Room

The challenge for Spintunes #14, Round 2 was to write a prequel to a Billboard Top 100 song. We chose to prequel I'm Still Standing by Elton John.

As you read the lyrics (below) you can see that we're writing about a break-up. In our song, the singer is distressed... distraught... as the the break up is ongoing ("...we divvy up the props...", etc.). In I'm Still Standing he's recovered and is issuing a musical F.U. Life goes on, and he's still standing. Jerkatorium, in their review of the round, made an insightful comment on the first verse about the stars in the eyes standing in for the over-the-top glasses often worn by Elton during this period. Unfortunately, I can't confirm it, because Hoover's in charge of the lyrics, and he's not saying.

Sometimes you write a song and it has more than one meaning... the public meaning and the private one. Such is the case here, where some personal events informed my writing of the music.

lyrics by William Hoover

The moon like a tear-drop
Is falling from the sky
And the stars become detached
Then settle in my eyes.

And the words they've no idea
That they're still supposed to rhyme
So now I'm finally thinking
That this may be the time...

To get out...
Of this empty room...
Already too long abandoned
This empty room
Spinning me at random
Now a flavorless expression
In a world we cannot question
Just a song without a tune
This dark and empty room.

So we divvy up the props
Which made this stage a home
And the laughter from the wings
Still echoes but it's gone...

From this empty room...
This empty room...
Already too long abandoned
This empty room
Spinning me at random
Now a flavorless expression
In a world we cannot question
Just a song without a tune
This dark and empty room.

This dark and empty room.