Friday, May 6, 2011

These melodies sound OK together

By and large, composing is a lonely occupation. You spend a lot of time humming to yourself and drawing little dots and lines and if you’re distracted easily (like I usually am) you just don’t even bother with it unless you’re alone and reasonably sure to stay alone until you’ve got a good amount of work done.

But so that you, my kind readers, might have a peek into the process and say “How interesting!” I present to you a thrilling musical discovery:

Two tunes I’ve been wanting to use for Welcome Oklahomagain* overlay on top of one another in surprisingly useful counterpoint! After hitting the snooze button a few times yesterday morning, I was half awake and had one of these melodies running through my head. In a moment of strange and miraculous insight (certainly not a moment of clarity, as I was still pretty groggy), I thought “Oh, this other phrase would probably work if it comes in partway through this one…” Without leaving the bed, I reached for my clavichord (a hilariously quiet keyboard instrument that has been out of vogue for about 300 years) and twiddled my fingers through the two melodies together and realized it was a nearly perfect fit!

Here’s the first tune I had in my head (first with only the clavichord, then with me singing some words):

It has been with me since Easter 2010.

Here’s the other one (again on clavichord and then with words):

That one has been rattling around in my brain since sometime in 2007.

And then here they are together without any singing:

Can you hear both melodies? Don’t they go together nicely? If I hadn't just played them each alone and told you they came three years apart, they would probably just sound like one inseparable unit.

I don’t know yet if both lyrical ideas will gel into the same song, but I feel hopeful that they can. If so, the part about an allegorical trailer park drug bust will be near the beginning and the bit about a scissortail flycatcher will come later among a litany of other “signs that you’re going to be OK”. Even if these end up as two separate songs, it is still going to be great to be able to use that scissortail melody as the featured vocal line in one spot on the album and as a hidden bass line in another.

*Welcome Oklahomagain is my master’s thesis project, a fan-fiction third installment in Sufjan Stevens’s abandoned “50 States” album series.

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