Friday, May 15, 2015

In This World So Blue

Over a week ago now, I wrote and composed another song. The universe threw it in my face so to speak, so I took the initiative and wrote it up. It was another of those late morning moments after, the coffee, the breakfast, and viewing the news had finished for the day. A tune came into my head, from my reminiscing on days gone by, thoughts of a Hank Williams III song, “5 Shots of Whiskey” (from Love Sick, Broke & Driftin') came in. So, I called it up on the computer for another listen. I have heard this song many times, and I like it. In the moments I'd call 'the afters,' you know, during that little space of time where the event has just past, yet our thoughts have a way to linger briefly, hanging on to a fragmented moment, focused on a related thought. I told myself, self, you have not written a drinking song. It happened in a moment while walking into the bathroom to lose some of the coffee. The words “Give me a drink, now this one's five,” came in, having a direct correlation to Hank's song, with the lyric, “Give me five shots of Whiskey...” In the least I can tie this thought to having just listened to those words, and the genre similar to the thoughts of melody, my head is also set in one of those slow sad-sap country beats, but that was as far as that similarity goes. By the time I had made my way back to my desk several lines of rhyme in this theme had transformed into some substance making sense in its way. Now in a second look, the subject is also similar to Hank's, man, telling the story, the subject of the story, a women, and love lost. Put it together and it caused heart ache. I did have to sort of work at these words, though it came pretty quickly. It came out nearly as spontaneously as growing hair, well faster than that by a lot.

This song is different from any that I've done previously in how it has a tag line at the end of each verse. That is a method I have never used before. When I wrote it, I thought it a rather powerful technique to use. And it works really well at holding the song together, so well that it can be doubled or tripled up (if so desired) and works giving elasticity to the lyric until I finally determine what this songs finish product will look like.

So the story line is of, I'll say a guy, likely because I am, and since I sing the song, it only makes sense for the character to be a guy. The guy is at the bar, probably a bar fly type that often drinks at the bars, it is familiar territory, and this person feels comfortable barking out orders to the bar-keep. “Give me a drink, now this is five, and I think that this'll help me stay alive,” is the opening lines in the lyric. Then he goes on thinking aloud about how down he is and how long it has been this way. As I said it's sad-sap lyrics. The verse ends with the tag line, “I'll come around, look what I've found, in this world so blue.” The second verse begins similar to the first, the guy barking out another order to the bar-keep, though using simple addition, this time the drink is number six, and it rhymes with tricks, so it works. I can't give it all away right now! Anyhow, this verse goes on by adding to the details of being down compounded by being drunk while longing for that now 'lost' lover, and how feeling this way is habitual for this individual, and again, the verse ends with the tag line.

The chorus deals in its subject with how the two had become friends that eventually led to being lovers. Its description is brief with some imagery of cars under the stars, and that it is this magnetism that creates the fond memory and its melancholy.

The last verse goes toward the imagined conversation between this person and the bar-keep, because of the potentials of driving while intoxicated. The guy tells him that he won't drive very far if he goes, just a couple of blocks at best. But the drunkenness takes the thought back to the desire for the drinks and the hope that the woman will return. Then again the tag, followed by another chorus.

In the week since writing the lyrics composing and recording a rough draft of the tune, I've played it several times becoming familiar with its cadence and putting the lyric in my brain (the real hard part of the process). In the times going through this song I have decided that chunks of lyric though written correctly were out of sequence. By moving a few blocks of text to different positions in the lyrical progression, I improved the over all image that these lyrics seem to want. I may not be finished with changing the songs details. The details in imagery are what evokes thought in the audience, that is my goal sometimes as a song writer. This is not so much the case in this particular song, because it is another silly sad-sap song. I do think that recognizing the potential of his particular technique, using a tag line is pretty significant in the evolution of writing lyrics as a craft. This kind of song writing is pretty much outside of my normal folk tune, by quite a lot, and that is okay with me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Awaken, another new song!

The birth of another new musical tune, and song came my way again today. As the days in living progress these songs and their lyric, inspired by the universe, I'd say due to having no other form to pin the inspiration upon, seem to form into units containing what I consider as having higher quality in its overall result. The reason for this is likely the experience gained over the years, creating my own songs in my method or it might be chance? What ever allows it, this brings to bare a sense of personal satisfaction.

For the sake of this writing and the theme of the blog, the trigger for writing, if known, should be stated. Quite like the previous posting about the song Bomb Train, this was also influenced and triggered in watching Democracy Now. Thank you Amy Goodman! I truly think this is more a general circumstance than anything other. Yet the same kind of scenario that brought out Bomb Train, occurred again this morning. I know I have been harboring the will to write this song and its general content for some time now, without actually having taken any steps to bring it into being prior. I guess this actual subject had not been clear in my mind before the words began forming upon my typing them into the word processor.

This lyric came in the form of what is the first line of the song, “Wake up, we can awaken today.” With it came a piece of what is now a melodic shape, though brief and truncated from its now complete form. The general theme is the state of humanity and the racial injustice and inequality that is so pervasive both here in the United States of America and in most locations where there are separate cultures, races and belief systems in contact, one with the other(s). I consider this representation in the human condition one that will one day fall into the past. As humans, the struggles that groups create, based in their own fears, and their own prejudices, serves to retard our potential to be better both as individuals and as groups having commonalities in sharing our home planet. It is sad really.

So I wrote two lines out in the computer, then having that melody forming internally, I grabbed a guitar, quickly finding the key and shape of it in a rhythmic form, set in a 3/4 time, and sang those lines, I then repeated the process to attempt capturing its entire essence. Succeeding at that, I shifted back to the computer and wrote another few lines, using a similar form as in the first line. That is with an opening two word statement, followed by an expansion on that statement, or a further clarification on what the statement represents. I completed 4 lines using that form. For the following verse, I chose to alter that theme a slight bit, reducing the introductory statement to that of a single word. Again I repeated this shape, writing 4 lines with this form.

I then got an idea of breaking from a traditional song shape or form. Most generally, folk type songs follow a pattern similar to: verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus... I wanted to attempt something different as a form of musical structure for this song. Having now constructed to verses of a consistent meter, the next set in verse would take on a differing meter, slight though distinctly altered. The metered lines in this part are unlike that in the first two verses. The single and or double word introduction to the line was dropped, allowing the lines to be broken in two segments, having two measures each or being that of a single line taking on the entire four measures. When it had taken form in the digital space before me, I again switched to the guitar and fooled with a form that would complement the original, while bringing it out in the 3. rather than the 1. Thus as the key for the original verses is a G Minor, this second stanza is in a C. Having a simple understanding of music theory, I can barely understand that this song is in a minor key, but only because of the use of an A minor, and the E minor, in the progression. I finished fitting out the chord structure in this second part, then returned to the computer keyboard to write out more content.

Again with the thought of breaking with tradition, the following section I decided would take on another musical shape and meter. This part is set in E minor. Another set of four lines formed up. They are somewhat representative of the second shape or second part of the song in that the original structure, of an introducing word, or two, followed by a complementing element was dropped entirely. These lines are also split in the middle, having a duration of two measures, followed by a second part having two more measures to make up a line. An exception is the fourth line carries the entire four measures, and is a summarizing statement Similar phrasing is also done with single phrasings that carry through the entire 4 measures.

With this much complete, I considered that the song's lyric was finished in that it said all I wished to express. None the less it was rather brief in total duration, having played and sung it along the course of its construction. So if naming the four verse like pieces of this song with each containing four lines, the first and second sets are the first part. The third set is the second part and the fourth set is the third part. I concluded a way to bring more length to the song would be repeating the entire four sets of lines but in a different order. Having reached the end of the writing or the fourth section (third part), it is followed by a repeat of both the third and fourth sections (second and third parts). This is then followed by what would be a break where the melody returns to that of the beginning of the song. The break is short in duration and is followed by a repeat of the first two sections (first part, a1 and a2) of lyric, with which a conclusion is reached with the repeat of the last line.

I successfully recorded a rough version of the song, a method of preservation because my aging brain has a way of loosing these ideas while they are young, where as not recording them leads to a differing kind of struggle. One that is hopeful of somehow recapturing that which was.


I have added a recording of this song, ''Awaken,'' today December 12, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bomb Train

Yesterday morning, early in my day as I started my normal routine (if in fact I have one), I began watching Democracy Now on the computer. Amy was going through the details of the daily headlines, the story was about another oil train exploding, this time in Mount Carbon, West Virginia. The programming showed the video a fireball raising upward into a cloud covered snowy sky and an observer obviously frightened by the intensity of the explosion. Seeing this triggered recent thoughts of this very subject as the theme of a song. I have been carrying around the idea since last summer, yet until today it remained solely as an idea. By chance, the previous night I had watched an episode of the early 1960's television show ''Rawhide'', who's musical theme seemingly remaining in the forefront of my consciousness, obvious to me now, came to mind. Those words, ''rollin, rollin rollin,'' popped into thought, in its musical form. The words can logically describe the movement of a train, and the musical theme in that very brief stanza in music formed solidly immediately followed by a differing stanza retaining that rhythm, yet entirely original. A phrase of ascending notes, followed a similar phrase of descending notes. This event happened in a time span of seconds and I immediately realized this could be the song. I grabbed the computer mouse, pausing the news video in play, followed by the opening of a word processor and began to write. ''Rollin', rollin', rollin', when the bomb trains come rollin, on into your town...” and continued, words quickly coming into place, telling a new imaginary story about the observance of an oil train passing by, the observer stopped behind a blocking railroad crossing gate, awaiting the train's passage. A poetic description of how it could be to be forced from the intended path by a railroad crossing gate and the train rolling by directly behind it. I think on that scene now, although imaginary, I painted it up pretty well, the hearing of the train horn, the wheels striking the joints in the steel track causing that distinct sound and waiting there in a state of limbo or in a position of being on hold. From there the story goes on tho the threat these oil trains pose in real life, to anyone who might happen to be near one of these exploding bomb trains, in which the story line concludes that the train will explode when it reaches ''downtown.'' I stopped somewhere after writing out the first half of the verse, 4 lines of rhyme, to grab a guitar to compose this music that was now rather clear in my minds eye.

The music created is in the key of E minor, in 2/4 time, in a fast moving tempo of 194 BPM. It begins quite like the theme of ''Rawhide,'' only long enough to get through those three words, creating a brief illusion that will bring up memories to the listener of that theme song, but then with a brief walk-down conclusion of that stanza, the ascending phrase takes hold, altering this illusion of known, into what will be unknown to the listener. I decided to make the first half of the verse, those four lines, in the key of E minor, then the following second half of the verse being different, in the key of A minor. This half concludes resolving back to a similar resolution as the first half, that is a B7th which follows a F# , making a somewhat apprehensive shape in its musical presentation.

Having now at least somewhat formed the complete musical theme, I put the guitar back down and went back to the keyboard, writing out more lyrics. I went back again to the introductory stanza, rollin', rollin', rollin', adding a complementary phrase, bomb train to it, as though it were a following tag, then went on to another verse. Along the course of the process, I went back and forth between writing and review while playing guitar and singing these new lyrics. The purpose being that of integrating the music into my memory while analyzing the lyric for meter and rhyme. Along the course in process, I became stumped to rhyme a particular line closing word that seemed important enough to retain rather than replace. I did something new to me, I used a search engine asking it for a rhyme to this word. To my surprise I found website, new to me, which provided a solving of the word in wanting. Later in the process, I came to another desire for finding rhyme and tried the website again without having a successful conclusion. I was however able to find a rhyme after some thought, and on I went.

With the concluding verses of the song I had the desire to make this work hold some historical significance. Having no actual factual information on hand, I did another web search finding several instances in fact, of locations where oil trains have exploded in recent history. There are surprisingly and sadly, too many to choose from. I found several names of communities, cities or towns, wrote them down, along with the human death count from a specific location and disaster. I incorporated these names and figures into the lyric, giving the song historical reference.

I concluded the song as I started it, back to that opening theme, including the complementary, ''bomb train'' phrase, again followed by those ascending/descending stanzas. In the end, I practiced playing and singing the song for a long time, then made a rough recording to hold the song. My memory is really getting leaky.

**An edit addendum**

I have added a refined recording of this song and video, mp3 page of my website: