Am I really on number 34? Sometimes it feels like I’m in prison, notching the days into the brick wall. (I only say that because I’m counting up, not because I’m that miserable.)
instrumentation: vocals, uke, midi instrument, bodhran, radiator.
It is 5:28 in the morning on February 6th. It is today. I woke up at 3 am and finished this song about 10 minutes ago. I started it yesterday morning; struggling, struggling, struggling with it all day. All day. If I was going to let you in on all the problems I had with this song, it would be a novel, so I will paraphrase:
The lyrics are:
Give a man…
I want you.
Give a man ten-thousand…
Give a man ten-thousand words, and he will write you a love song.
(Note, yet again, the use of numerical hyperbole. It’s more about the sound of the word “Thousand” and its lyrical qualities than it is about the actual number I’m guessing. I don’t stop myself from using it so excessively because that’s not what this is about today…and it’s use is not “on purpose”- it’s what it’s actually saying.)
What kind of commentary is this? Maybe it has to do with my inability to really write a love song, but I like what the two lines mean together. It’s simple, direct and both go further than face value for me.
Construction: I spent most of the day yesterday focusing on the voice and picking a quality. I went every place to find one: from Billie Holiday to Thom Yorke. I gave up after a few hours of indecision, and left for a rehearsal. Along with the vocal decisions came the general construction, which was easier than anything else. There was a lot of experimentation with the new uke, the bodhran, the radiator, and my record player.
Now, I only mention Radiohead because I realized one of their songs had become an inspiration and aural reference for the hand claps but only later in the song’s stages. It’s so funny how the musical memory works: I haven’t listened to that song in months and months, and I had already decided tempo, bass, melody, and the quality of sound I wanted before I realized that song was becoming a reference point subconsciously. I can see why people get nervous about plagiarism! I just now listened to We Suck Young Blood to tell you about the hand claps and just now realized the two songs are very similar. Sigh. No man is an island:
Radiohead has a song called We Suck Young Blood from Hail to the Thief. The hand claps have always been a mystery to me in this song. It never ceases to surprise me how far the hand claps go into this song and how much their used. The quality of the recording of them is so cool. Obviously, I just had me clapping alone in my house (though I’m sure had my dog Lacey hands, she would have helped me out.) but they’re okay for a song-a-day.
Stupid, stupid lyrics. I have such a love/hate relationship with them. These lyrics came randomly and quickly. Because they were so random and quick, they did not come accompanied by anything else. I struggled and pushed to find their companions, but there was nothing I felt worked with them. A line I played with that would follow it was: You will seem a special thing, but I will know it’s mine. Geez. It was just too mean, too sarcastic, and it was becoming impossible to find something to follow a statement like that. Where do these things come from, you might be asking yourself? I’m not exactly sure either, but along the way I came up with several versions of a story about who this woman is and why she might say something so pointed. I didn’t know where to go with this, so I just cut it out- it was meant to be, I think. I love all the millions of things this song now implies: Love? Lust? Stalker? Psycho? (This is the biggest lesson from today’s song: if I have to force something, try doing the total opposite of what my brain is telling me to do. Basically, I kept searching for more lyrics when a little voice was literally telling me this line was meant to stand on its own, though it seemed inconceivable to me at the time.)
So, now I had a three and a half minute song with one line. I came home from rehearsal, listened to the work I had done during the day and felt totally uninspired. I’m pretty sure my success with a song is directly related to how I’m feeling about myself: yesterday I was stupid to myself. I opted for bed at 9:30 pm. True.
At 3 in the morning I began working again, feeling pressure to finish, but knowing I couldn’t just half-ass something. Half-assing when I have the choice to put energy into something is like cheating. I don’t like cheating (and on tough days I’ve considered cheating several times). I listened again, hearing, focusing, and realized this line only needed one other: I want you. Perhaps cliché, but appropriate.
I re-recorded vocals and cut the song in half. (Any length.) I added one secondary voice, and, instead of adding multiple live vocal tracks, I deliberately chose to copy the same 2 live vocal tracks and add effects. It’s artificial quality and unreality is what is interesting to me.
I considered adding much more instrumentation, but opted against it. I might revisit this, but I think it’s okay for now. I’m still not confident about the mixing process and with a bunch of tracks that are exactly the same (hand claps: what to you do with multiples of them?), I’m a little lost, but I’m a musician, not an engineer. Here is this song as it stands:
10 tracks of claps, 1 midi bass, 2 bodhran, 3 uke*, 6-7 vocal tracks and radiator.
*Love this: As I played the uke, I would strum it and then shake it in front of the mic to make the sound warble. You can hear dirt and other particles fall inside it like at :35 and 1:00. Such a cool, unplanned sound! I love happy accidents like this.
I had this whole hour where I spend agonizing over my record player until I finally abandoned the idea. Will use later.
A comment of note that I will continue to ponder on as the weeks go by:
I was talking to a friend yesterday who was at my Knitting Factory show (THANK YOU if you came! It was so awesome! Fantastic sound there and everyone was so great. I had the best time!), and here’s what she told me:
You are more weird than you think you want to be.
Still pondering what that means to me exactly.
So nice that you’re here today. The east coast is supposed to be hit with a huge snow storm today. Guess we’re staying in.
The Knitting Factory courtesy of gina de la Chesnaye