Friday, July 23, 2010

Reality Check

Well, "Music to My Heart" isn’t finished. Not even close. I got the lyric smoothed into iambic pentameter. Only, one line is tetrameter. And it feels complete – the thought is complete - only it’s missing a foot. And, it doesn’t rhyme. None of it rhymes. That’s fine for a poem, but a song needs a good, solid rhyme scheme.

The idea is sound – I’m still sure and enthusiastic about it – and I’ve said everything I want to say... Just need now to say it better, or at least more conventionally. Just! Yeah. *sigh* I know it’s good, and I know it will work if I can only kick my brain out of the rut it’s stuck in and find the right words. Break out of the box in order to be more conventional. An oxymoron, right? But that’s exactly what I need to do. And trying to do it makes me so tired! Guess I’m really out of practice.

And, of course, I really can’t do much with the melody till the lyric’s set or at least semi stable.

The thing is, Bert Bacherach and Nigel Lewis’ "Nothing in this World" keeps running through my mind, which would be fine – it’s a gorgeous song – except I really need to be able to hear the song I’m currently working on, need to be able to concentrate on it to the exclusion of all other songs. That’ clearly not going to happen for a while.

So, though I hoped to zip right through, this project clearly is going to take some time. I need to move it to the back burner and let it stew and brew a while, much as doing so irks me. On the other hand, it’s not like I have a shortage of stuff to work on. But I’m enthusiastic about this project. I want to work on this project. *sigh* Realistically, though, continuing to flog it will do more harm than good and I know it. So, it’s move on to other things for now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Writing, and it feels so wonderful!

I started a brand new song, donno exactly, maybe an hour ago. The lyric is shaping up nicely, and the melody for the refrain is set, and set down. Even got the last part of the coda roughed out. Only thing left is, hm,mm, what do you call that? The main melody? The bit in between, that isn’t refrain. You know what I mean. Too tired and too high to care a whole lot if I’m making sense.

I’ve worked it out, and this is the first song I’ve written in some six years. I’ve noodled around, kicked around melody ideas, but this is the first real song. For me, the lyric usually comes first, and the melody follows quickly, or at least parts of it. So it was this time. I had the rough lyric in about five minutes. As I refined it, the refrain melody slowly took shape in another layer of my mind, so to speak, until it was defined enough to start setting down. Then there was some logistical stuff with Cakewalk, the antiquated but excellent music software I use (recommended to me many years ago by none other than Fred Schendle of Glass Hammer) as t how to copy and paste just the music so I could put the refrain melody in with each occurrence of the words. And, by the time I’d sorted that out, I had the very end. As to the remaining blank spots, I’m not worried. There may be an existing fragment I can shape. If not, the bits I need will come. They usually do. And, I have a really good feeling about this song. The way it flowed felt so right, so wonderful.

I don’ know if it uses different muscles or what, but songwriting is very different from writing prose or, curiously, even poetry. The flow is different; the feel is different. I haven’t experienced the particular kind of creative expression in so long that I’d almost forgotten what it feels like. But, it’s one of those things that comes right back. And it sure feels great!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Smoother sailing

"A New Dream" is coming together. Just a little more adjustment of the final phrase, and then all that will be left is tinkering with the harmonies (Arrangement seems like rather too grand a term). As so often happens with problems, creative problems at least, this one wasn’t nearly as fearsome as it seemed. Still, I’ll be glad to get the song finished and printed.

Haven’t yet decided whether to do anything with "No One to Love." As I’ve indicated, arranging isn’t my strongest point, and the thought of starting all over from scratch is discouraging. However, we’ll see how it goes.

I don’t have any deadline, this project is just something I want to do. So, there’s no pressure, except the little I put on myself. Of course, that’s both he easiest pressure and the worst; the easiest because nobody notices and gripes when you skive off; worst because when you do skive off, you have to live with yourself.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Super Klutz

It is rare for me to be at a loss for words. It is rarer still for me to regret the paucity of my vocabulary of “strong language.” But, the situation calls for swearing fluently, and I find myself ill equipped. So, suffice it to say that I am EXTREMELY ANNOYED!

I’ve been working on "A New Dream." Everything was going swimmingly until I discovered that I’d inadvertently deleted the last two measures. Thank Heaven it wasn’t more! Still, that’s enough. There’s no autosave copy – I don’t know why. – and at first I thought I’d have to scrap everything I’ve done since Tuesday, which drove me frantic. I think now it will probably be possible to recover the material from a copy saved elsewhere on my system. That thought is a great relief. My panic response does have a hair trigger. * rueful grin * Still, none of that changes the bleak fact that I am a super klutz! ARG!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Write the Songs

Busy, busy.

I thought of another song to polish up, while I’m at it, "No One To Love." It’s pretty good. The accompaniment track is abysmal, though, and had to be totally scrapped. I knew that, of course, but had forgotten just exactly how abysmal. And, discarding the whole thing is a pity, all that work gone to waste. But, reworking it would  have been too confusing. Much better to start fresh. Probably it’s better anyway, since the melody line still needs some tinkering. Overall, the song is promising though.

Meanwhile, "A New Dream" is coming along nicely, if slowly. It seems all the half notes at the ends of phrases have to be changed to dotted quarter notes - *shrug* whatever – and I need to do a little more tidying up. Then, of course, I need to do the whole thing again with the accompaniment track, adjusting, moving. It’s slow going and very tiring, but satisfying work, totally different from writing and editing words. That makes it, though challenging, a nice change.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It’s always something

This week, I have a new problem. Forget parallel universes and trying to juggle characters’ motivations and points of view. I’ve encountered a serious problem, one that literally makes my head spin: The beat of “A New Dream” is, well, misaligned. That is to say, the stresses, the natural stresses or accents in the melody and lyrics don’t line up with the beat as measured by the metronome. Or rather, some of them do, but some are off.

It seems like all I have to do is shorten and lengthen certain notes till the beat falls right, but it’s not as simple as that. First of all, there’s a two measure intro. That’s off. But, if I tinker with that before the main body of the song, it could throw off the    timing of the main body. More worryingly, the first note of the song is, so to speak, on the wrong side of the first bar line. That is, the first note falls before the first accented beat. So, as that first phrase repeats, where does the first accented beat of the phrase fall relative to the bar line and the first beat of the measure?

I never really thought about all this before, because it sounds fine. But, how everything’s laid out and where everything falls becomes important now that I want to print the song out. Hell, I’m not even sure of the time signature. Is it 4/4 or 3/4? It doesn’t have the feel of a waltz, but at the same time four beats per measure doesn’t seem right somehow.

The conclusion I draw from all this is not that something’s wrong with “A New Dream,” but rather that something’s wrong with my mind. I should be able to hear the right way. I should have written it the right way to begin with. But though I can hear the wrongness, it muddles me so that I can’t work out how to fix it. Eventually I’ll get it sorted out, but right now I’m very confused.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Engelbert Again

A few days ago I wrote to the contact e-mail at to ask if it would be possible to set up a control to let visitors to the home page turn the music off and on. It’s one of those pages where the music starts as soon as you enter. Without being able to switch the music off, I have no way of hearing what the screen reader is saying. Fortunately, the web site is otherwise very well designed. It wasn’t too hard for me to locate the site navigation links and click through to another page, from where it was a piece of cake to navigate through the rest of the site. Still, it’s the principle of the thing. I’d like to be able to read the home page. More importantly, a totally blind visitor probably wouldn’t be able to manage at all. And, the fix isn’t a difficult one.

So, I wrote to explain all this. The fan liaison sent back a note saying she had passed my message on to the web development team.

More importantly, her message included a photograph! *swoon*

*sigh* I suppose it’s all right to be a total and complete airhead as long as that is only one facet of your personality; if, when push comes to shove you can discuss with moderate intelligence The Vision of Piers Plowman or the influence of Boethius on The Knight’s Tale and Troilus and Criseyde, or point out waspishly that you opposed the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan from the very beginning when each and every soul you knew, including the most reliable Liberals, were telling you how shortsighted and naive you were, because the operation was necessary.

A personality is a complex organism, with many components and facets. Mine has the facet that likes maple walnut ice cream but hates Brussels sprouts, the facet that loves detective stories and the one that is fascinated by Quantum Mechanics and Archaeology. So, I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a facet that goes weak at the knees when confronted with a never-before-heard song by or a photograph of, say, Engelbert Humperdink or Tom Jones. I mean, I am only human, after all. But, it’s not a facet that comes to the fore all that often. And, it must not yet be fully integrated into my personality as a whole because it is, err, slightly embarrassing.

And yet, really... What’s a girl s’posed to do?

I wrote away today to inquire about joining Engelbert’s fan club. Seems to me, if I’ this far gone, I might as well go the whole way.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Earliest Hominids in Northern Europe

Archaeologists are working on a site in Norfolk, in Great Britain, that they believe was inhabited some one million years ago by Homo antecessor, making it the oldest known human settlement in northern Europe. They have found stone tools and even pinecones and pollen. They deduce from the latter that the climate at that time was similar to that of modern-day Scandinavia, and though they have not yet found physical evidence, they conjecture that the inhabitants must have used shelters and clothing, and perhaps tamed fire.

Humans' early arrival in Britain

Micro Quasar NGC 7793

This little black hole has a great big reach.

A small black hole has been observed blowing a vast bubble of hot gas 1,000 light-years across.

The gas is expanding because it is being heated by powerful particle "jets" being released by the black hole.

The observations were made by the Very Large Telescope in Chile and Nasa's Chandra space observatory.

Black hole blows huge gas bubble>

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Cool Stars Come in out of the Cold

ScienceDaily (June 29, 2010) — Astronomers have uncovered what appear to be 14 of the coldest stars known in our universe. These failed stars, called brown dwarfs, are so cold and faint that they'd be impossible to see with current visible-light telescopes. Spitzer's infrared vision was able to pick out their feeble glow, much as a firefighter uses infrared goggles to find hot spots buried underneath a dark forest floor.

Coolest Stars Come out of the Dark: Spitzer Spies Frigid Brown Dwarfs

Independence Day

Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day in the United States. This is a day to display unashamedly our love for this, our home, the greatest nation in the world.

On the other three hundred and sixty-four days in the year we can grumble about the glaring problems, deplore and protest the mistakes and stupid actions of our leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike (Stupidity is an equal opportunity employer.). Today we celebrate the beauty and grandeur of this land that reaches from sea to shining sea and beyond, the friendliness, generosity and ingenuity of her people, her many successes. Today is the day to sing America, to sing our love for her. Tomorrow we can get back to the business of setting her to rights.