I’ve been slacking in posting my FAWM songs up here so far this month, so time to fix that. Here’s the first one, an epic (7 minutes, don’t ask me how that happened) everyday tale of bitchiness and quiz shows.
Archive for the ‘FAWM’ Category
So FAWM is almost upon us again, and like so many other participants I’m finding myself hoarding song ideas and trying very hard not to inadvertently write them before February comes round. I can’t help but think that this is missing the point of a contest which is meant to push you into writing more music, so perhaps it’s just as well that this one slipped through the net and turned into a two-thirds-finished song before I could stop it.
I set myself a personal target of finishing it off in time to premiere it at last weekend’s pre-FAWM open mic meetup at the Green Note, and actually succeeded in finishing it off as well. At 1am the night before the gig. Which meant that I’d only had about half an hour of practice, and duly stumbled through the first two verses on stage before throwing in the towel and playing Graham The Caveman instead. (It wouldn’t have been so bad, except the first two verses were the old bit that I really ought to have learnt already.)
So, to quote Mark Lamarr, here’s how it should have sounded. For anyone wondering about the slightly odd subject matter, it was inspired by a moment on the journey to last year’s Forever party, where I was at Cologne Hauptbahnhof trying and failing to figure out some equations to do with raytracing, and thinking “oh, if only Paul ErdÅ‘s were here”. (Overlooking the fact that he’d died 10 years previously, obviously.)
Tonight I’m thrilled to be able to bring you an exclusive first glimpse of Are Great Things Born, the forthcoming album from Glencoe Horse.
…okay, so that’s a lie. Glencoe Horse (and their album) are a figment of random chance, generated by the following fiendishly complicated algorithm as introduced by Burr on the FAWM forum:
- The band’s name comes from the title of a random Wikipedia article
- The song title is taken from the last four words (give or take a couple) of the last quote that shows up on the random quotations page at, um, The Quotations Page
- The cover art is the third photo that comes up in Flickr’s random selection of interesting photos from the last 7 days
A general call went out to come up with an automatic online generator, and, well, how could I resist? My first attempt at an application in Camping (chosen so that I could take advantage of the wonderful HTML-parsing capabilities of Hpricot without the monster truck of Rails sitting underneath), it took about 3 hours to complete starting from no knowledge of the framework whatsoever, of which half was taken up finding out the best way to deploy it.
It lacks the human touch of the lovingly-photoshopped artworks that have previously come out of this concept (and replaces it with some rather horrific random colour schemes instead) but it’s still a curiously addictive way to pass a few minutes, with your finger poised over the Refresh key.
On the 6th of May, a bunch of intrepid FAWM survivors descended upon the Green Note, Camden’s loveliest live music venue, to catch up on songwriting banter and take part in the open mic session there. And so, armed with my shiny new (and small-enough-to-lug-around-on-the-tube) Korg K61P, I made my first ever public performance on stage with a musical instrument. (That’s if you don’t count a ZX Spectrum as a musical instrument. And if you don’t count piano recitals aged about 9 either. But still, eh?)
It’s taken a while to get the recordings sorted, but now thanks to the wonders of MP3 you can share in that glorious day.
Lucy (Divine Comedy cover) – download mp3, 3.9Mb
I Never Lost My Heart In San Francisco – download mp3, 2.9Mb
That evening we also crashed the open mic at The Stage Door, Waterloo – so for completeness, the two songs I performed there were You See Colours and The Ballad Of Graham The Caveman. No recordings of those though, unfortunately.
My last-minute final submission to FAWM… largely recorded around 1am last night, so to stay on good terms with my neighbours I didn’t “rock out” quite as much as I could have done.
This actually had its genesis at the very start of last month, when Mike Skliar’s opening song Listen To Fools managed to dislodge this long-forgotten idea from my subconscious. From there it took on a life of its own, eventually to become the mini-rock-opera you see here.
Personally I’m amazed at how decisively I managed to sail past the writers block that usually kicks in on my songs at around the 2:30 mark. Five and a half minutes?! I’ve had dentist appointments shorter than that…
If you’d told me at the start of this month that I was going to end it trying to be Ricky Martin, I would have thought you were mad. Turns out it’s me that’s the mad one then.
I started out by stumbling across this pairing of chords (Am7 and Em79 for those of you taking notes), and seeing as the second of the FAWM weekly challenges was “write a song using only two chords”, I figured I had a plan here. Given the Latin riff, it clearly had to either be in Spanish (which I don’t speak at all) or somehow be as lyrically exotic and sexy as something in Spanish (which of course is impossible). I went for the former option, hanging all my hopes on Babelfish.
Any native Spanish speakers listening to this (and I can think of at least one who might be reading here…) will probably fall about laughing at my pronunciation and the Babelfish translation. But that’s OK… bluffing your way in the language is kind of the whole theme of the song, after all.
After a while I got so immersed in the production that I forgot how silly the chorus was. Hopefully you can overlook the rather heavy reliance on the built-in keyboard accompaniment…
- this song intentionally left vague -
The music came first. The nature of the tune meant that I had to stick closely to a particular meter, with very little room for poetic licence, and I’m not sure I succeeded at that – even after distilling the lyrics down to the point where they have very little narrative structure left and become more of a stream of consciousness (but believe me, the writing process was anything but stream-of-consciousness. This was a slog). There might still be some meaning in there somewhere. Perhaps.
After a short break to catch up on regular geek duties, it’s back to FAWM, and it appears that I now need to average somewhat more than one song a day if I’m to reach the target. Hmm.
First of all, the standard apology – sorry for the chronically bad recording. I splashed out on a decent mike and USB mixer widget this weekend and everything, only to find that I’m missing a crucial cable. (Big jacks, little jacks, phono plugs, fine – I’ve got drawers overflowing with them. XLR? Where the hell did that come from?) So for now it’s back to the iBook built-in microphone, with its amazing propensity to pick up the clack of my horribly clacky sustain pedal. But I’m keeping it (for now) for authenticity’s sake, because it’s the first time I’ve succeeded in capturing a single live take of, well, anything really.
Update (2007-03-04) – Better recording (with a proper microphone) up now…
This was great fun to put together, and hopefully it shows. I do wonder if I’m ever going to pull off such a tight bit of rhyming as the second verse ever again.
Every week the FAWM website posts a weekly challenge; a theme or other constraint that participants can work into their songs, or ignore as they please. This week, it’s “Colour” (or “color” for strange foreign people who insist).
Arthur C Clarke once told of how a voice popped into his head one day, speaking the words “These are the songs of distant earth”, and the only way he could exorcise it was to write a 30,000 word novella with that as the title. This week I’ve had a similar experience, except the voice was saying “Write a song about blue tack! Go on! Blue tack!”
This is not that song. I’m still working on that one, and it’s mutated into something else now, such that it’s only very tangentially about blue tack. Hopefully you’ll get to hear it soon. However, that left me with a void in my colour-related-song repertoire, so I wrote this instead.
This song is actually a riddle of sorts. First person to spot the hidden subtext wins a cookie.
Update: Well, nobody got it – I guess no-one saw colours after all… Read on for the answer (paying special attention to the bold text…)
I surprised myself with this one…
With my bubblegum europop compositions getting nowhere, I was inspired by various other FAWM entries from mucho talented people (particularly A new game by Becca Palm) to go for something a bit deeper. This romantic ballroom-y theme came from nowhere, but romantic lyrics aren’t my scene – so I made them romantic-plus-evil instead. As one commenter has put it, you’ve got to imagine “women in long dresses ballroom dancing to it with looks of mild horror on their faces as they realized what the song was about”.