• Submitted on time! Mar 11, 2023
First Words

This assignment was even more challenging and thought provoking than I’d assumed it would be. Found my borrowed line (“trees back to life”) from a great bell hooks poem called Appalachian Elegy (Sections 1-6). Didn’t select the line, really. Just saw it and went with it. But when I went to write lyrics around it, I found myself completely unable to do so without thinking musically—it was fascinating. Must’ve tried three or four different approaches, each time accidentally considering melody or rhythm or how I might deliver the lines. Ironically, I ended up listening to other music in order to set myself free from thinking about my lines musically. Thus, a sheet of lyrics was born. Certainly got my wheels turning on one of the great curiosities of my life: the difference between writing lyrics and poetry (I went to school for poetry and enjoy it quite a bit, etc etc.). But this assignment cast some serious light on how, for me, a good lyric is inherently related to the musical decisions therein—and although there’s “music” in poetry, it’s subtler, more flexible, and able to be betrayed if that’s what’s best for the poem. Doesn’t work that way with songs, in my opinion. So this assignment got me to write something in between: The lyrics are definitely not a poem, but they’re not really lyrics to me, either, in that the musical decisions came after they were written. The whole trick of this assignment, of course, was to try to reverse engineer when writing the music so that the lines felt as lyrical as possible. As I said earlier—fascinating stuff.

Anyway. After all that, I had myself a hoot whipping up an oddball track. Song’s an ode to the small moments that stay with you and make you feel like part of something greater. Used a lot of different sounds on this one, stuff outside my wheelhouse, and had fun with the mix. Shout-out Zoya on the background vocals.


Small things

Hover in the gravity pull

Slow wave in the mull

Circle the center


Small glow

Letting the bigger hand-hold take hold

I’d be a corner

Just to be a part of the fold



An arrow alone in flight

Trees back to life

Worth breathing in again


Small things

Parade in a snaking line

Moving like honey

Flood of a golden light

Looking for feedback on

Incorporated a lot of different sounds on this one. Do any stand out in either a good or bad way?


daeclan March 27, 2023 9:19pm

i love the space and magnetic pull/reach of the instrumental—like a gentle beam from a UFO trying to bring an old friend back up to the mothership. the lyrics paint an impressionist 

the synth sounds feel like home, i like the sound selections and don’t think anything sticks out in a bad way.

is that the same piano at 1:40 and 1:58, just an octave up? seems so much more clear & provides some relief to any prior tension—feels intentional, but i think the more vintage/detuned piano lower sound fits the mood & could continue to fit there if you didn’t want to break out of that sadder vibe.

Ryan April 3, 2023 5:36pm

Damn, I love the idea of a UFO trying to bring an old friend back up to the mothership. That fits well—this song ended up being about the warmth of memories that stand the test of time, so I’m glad you felt a hominess.

It’s the same effect chain on the piano at 1:40 and 1:58, yup, but it’s the lead part from verse 2 that makes a reappearance as an interlude. I also played the same melody on electric guitar (piano on the left, clean guitar on the right). Yeah I wanted to let the sunlight prevail in the back half of the tune, so that change in mood was intentional. I’m hoping enough storminess stayed in the drums to make the whole track cohesive, regardless of the eventual shift.

EliasSZ March 15, 2023 3:04pm

Totally hear what you are saying about the difficulty of writing lyrics separate from music – felt very impossible for me, and I even scrapped my first lyrics I wrote when I realized I basically written a melody to write them. Very impressed with your ability to get your lyrics to sound so musical, as if this was always the way you wrote.

In terms of the different sounds, I think things generally sound excellent. Love the synth sounds and vocal processing. Not sure the piano sound at :36 totally works for me, but honestly that only occurred to me on second listen when I was intently listening to see if anything didn’t fit, so I might be overthinking it.

Two other things I really liked: the change at 1:59 is extremely satisfying. Really nice. And the line “I’d be a corner / Just to be a part of the fold” is really strong and stuck with me.

nick March 15, 2023 12:02pm

another banger. really great space you’ve created with all the instrumentation/samples/mixing. totally agree with @@Tengo and @@TylerK— very very cool drum sounds and composition. that raspy flappy kick has so much character while still delivering the goods.

i love distinct isolated percussive elements that repeat every so often as part of the drum composition, so the little brushy drum fill toward the end of every bar is a big win for me. however, it sticks out sonically because it’s so natural sounding, so id experiment with effecting it in some way to be less distracting sonically and even more outstanding in general.

Tiny other thing for me is the little mouth noise poppy clicky moments. maybe zap those puppies out.

@@zoya killin it back there

Tengo March 13, 2023 9:45pm

Damn dude, the production sounds so sick on this one! I love all the sounds you’ve chose on this one, and I continue to be so impressed by your ability to just churn out these super cohesive, well produced, well mixed tracks on the reg.

All the keys/synths/strings sound great, and I love to see you featuring keys parts on some songs and letting the guitar take a backseat. The drum sounds are sick! Truly some of the most interesting drum sounds I’ve heard in a while.

The vocal processing on your lead and the bgv all work for me.

tl;dr it’s perfect

TylerK March 13, 2023 10:34am

Love the outside kick mic sound on the drums. Been getting super into this sound lately after shying away from it for years. What was I thinking! You also knew I’d like that pulsing synth cmon. Great hi hat sound too. You don’t miss!

Was expecting this to be a breeze for you bc of your background in being well read, but refreshing to know that you felt a similar disconnect that I do between poetry and song lyrics. I feel like I can usually tell when lyrics were written first for a song (Disintegration by The Cure) and I resist that. I don’t know why. It’s not the way I do things, so it’s gotta be wrong. “It doesn’t work that way with songs” hits hard. I had a difficult time but when I ended up embracing “I am fine with this not turning out perfect” is when it turned around for me.

Maybe poems gotta make their own music and whatever we try to musically impose over it will always feel at odds with each other. Write that down.

Ben March 13, 2023 9:18am (edited)

I’m sure I’ll be saying this type of thing a lot as I leave comments on these submissions, but your worksmanship on the lyrics really struck me: I love that I can definitely hear the active “fitting” of your lyrics into your music, but it also sounds right that way. Works really well. The borrowed line and the line directly before it are perfect examples: The flow is obviously unusual, the syllables are delivered in weird polyrhythms and syncopations with the drums (you’ll also really hear that in the chorus of Nora’s song.

All the unusual non-traditional-songy ways of building your song not only sound great, but they even kind of sound like a style that I’ve been hearing emerging over the past several years. I can’t quite put my finger on what artists and songs are good examples, but your song struck me as not really sounding jarring or surprising.

A couple stray examples of lyric-squeezing that I’ve come to love after the ~3rd listen: The “If you wanna talk about it” tacked to the end of a line in Cadmium. Also, the delivery of “I think his lung’s fucked up” in “Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?” by Ween gets me every time. It so doesn’t fit but I’m so glad they forced it in.

I also like that you’ve got 2 types of retrofitting of the lyrics:

1. Write fewer syllables into a bar than there are beats – stretching and spacing them out, maybe polyrhythmically.

2. More words into a bar (“…7 words and 4 beats walk into a bar. bartender says hello, this is crazy, but welcome to ryan’s song”) than there are beats – squeezing them, grouping them together, borrowing beat credit from the previous or next bar’s beat bank and paying it back with interest.

“Letting the bigger hand-hold take hold” puts you over your beat credit limit but the space in the two lines that sandwich it give it plenty of room to fit.

The third time of rhthmically retrofitting i think is just continuing the phrase in the next bar (and the next line of paper), as I’ve done several times in mine.

Also in general, less related to the rules of this assignment, I just really really like it when songs stay at pretty much one solid energy all the way thru. No need for an epic build here. We’re just dropping into this vibe that you created, that might have started hours before I hit play, and might continue sort of just chugging and vibing for hours more. That was a huge reason why Jose Gonzalez/Junip hit me so hard the first time i listened to them.