Songwriting Series: #1

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.

It’s fascinating to observe and participate in a group setting where every member carries an obtuse expertise (or, in my case, a lack thereof), and try to meld them together within a total time duration of 20 minutes. What truly comes to light is just how much dedication every individual is willing to offer to the considered assignment.

In this case, half the group wanted to get the hell out of the practice room.

Our improvisation group, randomly anointed as Blake Badabing and the Crystal Oddities, consisted of four members, where I became “Crystal Oddity” number two. With a fairly solid ensemble size and fascinatingly balanced instrumentation set up with voice, flute, cello, and drum, it seemed like our projects would fare brilliantly and easily as compared to groups with two electric guitars, flute, and ukulele. Regardless, we quickly found out that despite having decent instruments, a particular cellist possessed a certain lack of improvisation abilities that led to the resultant recording disaster of the century in the previous assignment.

The week prior to this recording session, the class assignment asked us to jam for two minutes (a whole two minutes!) using a blues jam progression as guidance. uuuuh…wtf? Not only did I know know what a blues jam progression was, but I knew that couldn’t play bananas without sheet music, so asking to jam was like asking me to eat handful of wasabi plain. Not a good idea.

Our final submission for that project ended up having horrendous balance issues where the cello could not be heard in any way shape or form. Small distortion and resonance from my cello ended up prompting the TA to ask me whether I was syncopating some funky bass line, to which I said, “Yeah…yeah…maybe…” To be honest, however, I was playing as softly as I could during the recording session, as I left trying to protect any remnants of personal pride in my ability to play the cello. But I digress.

Blake Badabing and the Crystal Oddities made a triumphant comeback the following week, and spent a whole hour (in comparison to our previous 20 minutes), recording a version of Goodnight Irene (1933) by Lead Belly. Numerous versions and covers were recorded after Lead Belly’s death, including the Weavers and Frank Sinatra.

Courtney, our flutist, was responsible for modification of lyrics, and appropriately turned the song into a witty reflection of one of UVA’s most revered (or disgusted) traditions: streaking the Lawn. It may come as no surprise to any of my fellow Wahoos that the song was received quite positively and humorously during class, and that the more subtle inferences may be lost to those not a part of the UVA student culture. However, the song itself should still prove enjoyable.

After my failure of a performance the previous week, I quickly transitioned myself to playing the piano, an instrument I am far less apt at, but can hide my inadequacies by playing arpeggiated tonal chords that make me sound far better than I really am.

 

Ensemble + Lyrics

Voice          Grace
Flute           Courtney
Drums        Mark
Piano          Christopher

GOODNIGHT MR. JEFFERSON (2012)
Blake Badabing and the Crystal Oddities

Mr. Jefferson, Good-night
Mr. Jefferson, Good-night
Goodnight Mr. Jefferson,
Good-night Mr. Jefferson
I’ve got to put my clothes on

Last Saturday night I got wasted,
My friends and I went to the lawn,
We took off our pants and our tee-shirts
And ran around naked til dawn

Mr. Jefferson, rise and shine
Mr. Jefferson, get up
Good mornin’ Mr. Jefferson,
Good morning, Tom
I’ve just streaked down the lawn 

We ran down the steps of the Rotunda,
Dodged spot lights and slipped on wet grass,
We ran three circles ‘round Homer,
And then we kissed his ass. 

Mr. Jefferson, What time is it?
Mr. Jefferson, I’m tired
Oh Please Mr. Jefferson,
I’m done with this
And why can’t I find my clothes?

The final stretch felt like torture,
My heart pounded hard in my chest,
See there’s lots skills that I’m good at
But running is sure not my best

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