Monthly Archives

May 2012

Songwriting Series: #5

By | Impressions, Introspective, Music, UVa | No Comments

Singing is fun. Sort of.

Everyone says singing in the shower makes you sound better, and generally, that’s probably true. The reverberations inside a bathroom definitely give your voice a more operatic feel and helps you sound more powerful (as well as muddying any awkward termination of phrases), but bathroom echo doesn’t help fix incorrect pitch. I consider myself a poor singer, not because I can’t “sing” or because I’m embarrassed about my voice. I’m embarrassed about my ability to never sing on pitch. Read More

Songwriting Series: #4

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Short and sweet, this assignment was. After having sunk so much time into trying to finish “Finding You,” inevitable exhaustion kept me from devoting an equal amount of effort into the subsequent project. However, not all is lost. Though I could no fathom sitting down and layering instruments for very long, I decided to tackle the recording with a new focus on singing. Oh yeah~ First recording ever, with Christopher singing? Bring it on! Read More

Songwriting Series: #3

By | Impressions, Introspective, Music, UVa | One Comment

Several weeks into the semester, my MUSI3370 course, otherwise known as songwriting, we were tasked to compose lyrics to our own original song. Previous projects required us to either rewrite lyrics to an already existing chord progression, or recompose a chord structure to old lyrics. With full creative liberties, we were allowed to write and compose about anything we so desired, and my project, took a strange turn during it’s development.

If this song were to be categorized, it’d probably be a ballad, from the looks of lyrics, though I will admit, that the style and mood I was aiming for was totally not in that area. I would even go as far to say that it’s a lamenting ballad; though there is no death, it’s a song questioning one’s own purpose in life, or expressing confusion and agony over not being able to understand oneself to a reasonable level. My exposure, outside of this class, to popular music in English has been fairly limited, and I’ve never been a lyrics person (most of my music has no lyrics or lyrics in a foreign language that I don’t understand). Thus, it probably goes without saying that my perception of what kind of song this is might be a bit inaccurate.

As I mentioned before, I had no intention of building a moody, somewhat slow-paced song; I was hoping to end up with a heartily felt song with a quickstep mood. Ideally, I wanted to be able to sing the song while I walk to class, with a light strut in my step. Though the majority of the piece ends up being a bit downtrodden and not entirely happy, that shouldn’t stop the song from having a slightly upbeat style.

That probably even reveals that the penultimate goal of the song is to realize that the right thing to do is move forward. In terms of design, the song is about not remaining static. The gradual of different and similar instruments towards the end creates a thicker, supportive atmosphere for which the vocalist can sing stronger and more confidently. There are moments, such as the musical interlude, where the musical intensity skyrockets, reminiscent of the creative and inspirational bursts we carry within us. The two main instruments in this piece are the harp and piano (with strings serving both a lyrical and supportive purpose); the harp’s resonance and sensitive timbre make the song more friendly, while the piano’s percussion-like keys give its intention and drive. Short responses, trills, and flourishes by the piano and harp add charm, wit, and youth. Additionally, the piano’s and harp’s ability to easily and naturally play arpeggios allow the piece to have momentary sweeps in sound and range, offering another dimension and dynamic to the composition. The ending of the piece swells in great climax, inviting all the instruments to reenter in one final exclamation of purpose, and resolves with not a battle or victory call, but more of an inner satisfaction and settling of previous troubles.

I attempted to maintain an ABCA verse and bridge rhyming scheme, as well as an AA or BB chorus scheme. I’m not sure if the chorus is too short, it probably is, but I wanted the chorus to be a progressively changing arrival of a repeated action, reflecting a gradual morphing as the song continues. In order for this to work, I felt it should be used sparsely, maybe even only twice. In terms of syllables per line, I planned on mirroring line length between lines that rhyme. I never did consider how syllables would influence or fit into the song in context to singing a line and phrase, but I suppose we’ll work on that as we go along.

The words are quite personal, but not to the degree that I’m embarrassed to discuss it. It’s always been a challenge for me (and still is) to discover what I should be doing in life. I used this song as a form of dialogue for myself, and no one in particular. I attempted to draw images with words that envision space and weight. Perhaps I mention everything from the perspective myself too often, and that doesn’t allow listeners to implant their own experiences into my song, but according to some people I showed this too, there was such an issue. They even went as far as to say that the song was really ambiguous, which it is to a degree.

My normal composition style, in retrospect, is composing/improving (to the best of my ability) via a piano keyboard, building upon a certain sequence of chord progressions that sound pretty stable. Using the MIDI input capabilities of a program like Logic Pro, allows me to transpose the chords into a different tonal key and obtain various tone colors. Schubert once described the key of E minor as a ‘maiden with a lily upon her breast’ (lulz) and Rachmaninov found D major a golden brown colour. Though I’m not a synesthete myself, and pretty much am unable to really objectively decide which tonal key sounds better, it is easy to notice that keys do sound different.  Read More

Songwriting Series: #2

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“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” is a song written and recorded by American country music singer-songwriter Hank Williams in 1949. The song about loneliness was largely inspired by his troubled relationship with wife Audrey Sheppard. With evocative lyrics, such as the opening lines “Hear that lonesome whip-poor-will/He sounds too blue to fly,” the song has been covered by a wide range of musicians.

Rolling Stone ranked it #111 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is the second oldest song on the list, and one of only two from the 1940s. Here’s a youtube link for anyone interested in taking a peek at the original. Read More

Songwriting Series: #1

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And welcome to the first entry of my Songwriting Series. This series is an effort to slowly, but surely, work my way through (almost) all the songs/compositions I worked on in class for MUSI3370: Songwriting during the 2012 Spring Semester at UVA. I will try my best to recall past memories and describe the process in which each song came to fruition (some riper than others). Each song has a very different origin and method of development; some were group projects, while others were not. Some had nearly infinite time devoted to its completion (or incompletion) while others were under the grinding time ax. Looking back, it’s laughable to see the range of quality my songs possessed, but regardless of the final outcome, I learned a great deal during the semester and have been inspired in many ways to perhaps continue composing and writing, time permitting.

So without further ado, I’d like to present Goodnight Mr. Jefferson.

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Outburst #025: What now?

By | Introspective, Life, Outbursts, UVa | 2 Comments

I wrote a post a while back, reflecting on my transition between high school and college. It was a thoughtful exercise and one that was ultimately very revealing of my fear and unstable future. It has speedily reached 2012, and another wave of UVa graduates (about 6,ooo, to give an estimate) have walked down the lawn and wear the Honor of Honors. First off congratulations to the Class of 2012… Read More

Outburst #024: What’s so Hard?

By | Commemoration, Introspective, Life | No Comments

What’s so hard about constantly updating a blog? Nothing to write about? Nothing interesting to discuss? Actually, what’s so difficult about doing something consistently and habitually? I’ve never been very good at daily routines, ever since I was little, and it’s pretty obvious with my study habits, less than favorable inclination to practice cello, as well as other things. Even now, after having, again, been absent wordpress nearly another month, I remind myself every day, “Hey, perhaps I should write something…anything…on the blog…just because…” And every time I get back to my computer, I decide to put it off another day. Read More