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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

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

“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

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

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

SGD: recursion

By | Animation, Electronics, Impressions, Introspective, UVa, Video Game | One Comment


Recursion is a game that was pitched for the University of Virginia’s Student Game Developers (SGD) Fall 2009 lineup by Daniel Epstein. I was intrigued by its premise, and being a first year, I was excited to get involved in any project possible. A puzzle game at heart, Recursion borrowed a mechanic used in the popular Braid: using previous iterations of your character, solve puzzles. Though, as its name implies, Recursion used recursion. There is no ability to re-control a past self, which made players more thoughtful while level exploring and puzzle solving.

It’s strange looking through this old work now. I distinctly remember having random spurts of inspiration and laziness, so the project had very sporadic progress, but fortunately, Recursion was one of the games that had the considerable headway in terms of project completion during that semester. The project spanned over two semesters, since character design and animation were the main focus of the Fall Semester. We wanted a character that was simple enough to be presented in a 16×16 pixel box, and with that limited amount of space, it’s definitely difficult to make any detail noticeable. This resulted in a simple character: Piko. With feet. I resorted to using my favorite original character as the game’s main mascot, but for some pretty obvious reasons, we had to change the character at the end of production.

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Outburst #004: The art of being a troll

By | Experimental, Introspective, Outbursts, UVa | 3 Comments


I was recently having a conversation with Arma, who reminded me of a time I trolled itzhakkim over the phone. The memory brought back wide smiles so I thought I’d briefly recount the story.

For those of you who are not entirely familiar with the term (though I’m sure most of you are), trolling typically involves inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic comments in an online community. Trolling, however, is not limited to the interweb. Trolling in real life can similarly be considered as merely annoying someone repeatedly in the same manner for no particular reason. The end goal for me, though was to illicit an amusing emotional response from the person who I was calling. Read More

A Wrinkle in Time

By | Introspective, UVa | No Comments

On January 19, the University of Virginia will return to its busy, bustling self once the Spring Semester begins once more.  It’s shocking to realize that in between the Fall and Spring semesters the world somehow manages to enter a brand new year.  Strange, huh?

Somehow the lack of faces makes it less cheerful…

And so we welcome 2011, the first year in this brand new decade.  It was only 10 years ago when we transitioned into a new Millenium.   With this, the passage of time and it’s unforgiving momentum becomes more and more clear.  It is impossible to fight or change, so how do we deal with relentless change?

Inevitably, new objects age and turn old, but at the same time, old memories lead to new exciting experiences and choices.  It’s probably because of how temporary all these things are that make each instant in life memorable and beautiful.  What kind of world would we be living in if instead of fleeting sparks of passion and desire, each moment of sadness/happiness were infinite?  It rips the meaning of emotion and right from life’s hands.  It would be a total contradiction.  One could perhaps think of our lives as linear, moving from one thing to another, never multiple things at once. Read More