Track 1: it’s not a song about maths homework

I was an entire instant, all to myself, more than I am now.

I feel like a kaleidoscope;
I’m feeling incompatible.
I see the numbers in my veins:
Bulging out beneath my skin,
Completely static.
I see me staring at the problem,
Begging it to solve itself,
Solve for x, for me.

It fills the gaps between the walls:
The syrup in the shadows.
Like a plastic bag
Down the throat of a whale,
Trapped in an instant.
That blank portrait, those same words,
The way I can no longer
Say anything else.

 

I wrote this on a whiteboard and left it in the hallway of my flat. That in itself felt like an achievement. Yes, me being scared of everything will be a recurring theme in this blog.

The words are, for the most part, frankensteined from little snippets of writing that I did in the last few months of 2013. That’s what I want the EP to be about, though: the claustrophobia of lengthening nights, the time spent being a ghost, and the feeling of eventually waking up.

So there you go; that’s what I’m going to sing in the first track. I worked it quite easily into the music, which I think has a bit of a dreamy/introspective feel to it. 

Shortly after coming up with a melody for the vocals, I realised that it would probably be a good idea to transpose the song to a new key – one that would suit my shy-girl vocal range better. Since the guitar parts I’ve written are all really simple, I had programmed them into the computer using my MIDI keyboard, instead of recording audio tracks. MIDI clips only contain information about a piece of music – when notes are played, how long they’re played for and at what volume – instead of the actual sound wave, and this means that you can edit a MIDI file really easily by simply dragging and dropping musical notes around an on-screen keyboard. The computer then generates the sound for you.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a few bars that one of the guitars plays in my song:

Image

(I’m currently using a super-basic-but-still-really-cool program called Ignite. It’s great for quickly capturing ideas but I’m already getting frustrated by its limitations. I’ll soon make the switch to Ableton Live, which is scary but incredibly powerful)

Now, I transposed the song down four semitones, taking the key from C# minor (I think) to A minor (presumably). It’s funny how that simple change – lowering the pitch of everything by the same amount – seemed to affect the song. It reminded me of an idea posited way back in the early 1800s: that musical keys have different characteristics. According to the internet (http://web.archive.org/web/20080213173415/http://www.library.yale.edu/~mkoth/keychar.htm), it was said, for example, that the key of A minor is associated with “pious womanliness and tenderness of character”, whereas my original key of choice is “a leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture.” The physicist in me says “ha!”, but part of me – the part that goes mental every time there’s a full moon – loves it.

Anyway, transposing MIDI clips is fine, but I will be recording the final version of the guitar parts using an actual guitar, instead of my wee keyboard. This means I need to relearn the guitar parts – I haven’t had a close enough look at it yet but I’m hoping I won’t run into problems. It’ll be awkward if some of the notes become unplayable, but I suppose I could always just detune the strings!

The same applies for the bass part, except that I don’t have a bass guitar. Well, I considered heading back to my parents’ house to borrow my twin sister’s bass… She’s right-handed and I’m a lefty, but for the longest time my party trick way to drunkenly try to play righty guitars upside-down, so I don’t think I’d have too much trouble with it. For now, I’ll stick with a MIDI track; I’ll possibly go home to record the basslines for all 4 songs before I start mixing. Would that be cheating?

~

Next time I’ll talk about musical influences, or the hardware/software I’m using, or how writing drums is driving me insane. As well as simply keeping track of my progress for my own purposes, I’m trying to keep the content at a level suitable for people who don’t know anything about music theory or production, as I think it’s all really fascinating! I also hope that what I write about will be interesting to other musicians out there. Let me know what you think 🙂

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