Shark Friends

  • Submitted on time! Jul 19, 2020
Brain Dig

Caught a bigger fish than I had time (or skill??) to complete!

A draft of a song, with improvised lyrics for the ending… first minute was composed (and under-rehearsed)! Wohoo! Psyched to do this again in two weeks.

Draft of Lyrics:

We were sharks friends
no lonely teeth

crowds of them
Inside our deep sleep

There were mountains
crooks and valleys and archways
To walk though

There were airplanes
needles in the sky
And blizzards
sunburned candy pies

No more mystery
hiding beside us
no more Juliet
no more march weather

Tybalt just died
a martyr for fighting

A couple of elephants
Predators bite by bite
Brass monkeys to put up a fight

Purple windows
desperate widows

I am uncorking a Spectacular bottle
of misanthropic love songs

for you

I don’t like having emotions about my childhood. The actual emotions tend to feel inaccessible. So I thought of a cool, sacred memory. There’s some magic and excitement in here. my sister and I were flying wooden airplanes in early spring, up at my family’s house in NH. It may have been an hour, it may have been 10 minutes.

The rules of play were simple: wherever the plane landed dictated the part of the world we were in. Given the season, there were flowers shooting up, snowbanks hidden in the shadows, streams of melting snow, a field with wintered over vegetation. In our jubilant play, we were in a timeless expansiveness: connected to an eternal now.

I don’t *really* want feedback, I sort of just want people to tell me that it’s good and say “ok sure hmm yes I guess all that makes sense”.

These are my process brain thoughts that I intend to use for myself as I do this process more regularly (!). Help me revise my practice techniques to get more of what I need into me on a regular basis.

First I came up with Chords; then tried polyrhythms for the “hypnotic effect”. I really liked the sense of harmony shifting in a strange way due to the natural flow of the RH over the slower LH; it gives the harmony a real instability — every time the LH note ticks ahead, it sort of recontextualizes the ostenato in the RH.

By accident, I really liked starting the chord progression for the second half of the verse with the 2nd chord from the 1st. Playing the Esus7 felt like a wicked cool discovery, but then I realized it was just a WS down from the previous transition out of the Cmaj9.

As I came up with such an outlandish basic idea, I recorded it and sang over it — I had an inkling of a melody but tech seemed easier.

I did that, but then it sounded like total BUTTS, mostly from mic quality/something about how my voice sounds through a 57 vs a condenser.

Well, the good news is that I wrote lyrics in a flash, then improvised them as the take. So I had something to go off.

I tried to methodically go through miking my piano, but it didn’t work out — I remembered how uncannily good voice memos sound on my iPhone (and also how my Zoom H6 sounds). So I opted to do that.

I was continually frustrated with how delicate I wanted the compositional gestures to be. I came up with some jamming exercises to get comfortable with the cadence of making melodies with the an ostenato + polyrhythm — but I didn’t really capture that in relation to the flow of the whole song.

I don’t tend to follow linear stories within songs, so as a writer it makes me a little more “impressionistic” (not Impressionistic).

I wish I had/in the future will:
— work with development more coherently:
—> swap between polywhirls in the second verse to make feel more unstable.
—> clarify the ascending gestures at the end of the 1st chord progression. Maybe notate something very specific with accelerating rhythms (5:3, 4:3, 3:2, and some dotted thing)

— clarify the LH gestures. Its a sort of habitual bassline,
— add in strings
— do more precise metric modulations with different polyrhythms
— figure out how to make lyrics that scratch this itch of impression “say whatever I want” ness, but also cohere around something thats more solid in my mind. Lyrics that feel gentle, free and structured.

Looking for feedback on

Suggestions on drafting process? How do the sections flow together? What do you like about it? What should I like about it? What does it want to be next-level of well-structured?


nurphgun July 24, 2020 4:11pm

This is awesome. Agree with @@nick on the musical theater vibe – I imagine a character having a reflective solo moment, commenting on the things and people around him, reminiscing about fun times had and loves lost.

Ben July 23, 2020 1:13pm

I like the free-flow of this piece. It’s not anchored by a click, or by form, or by rules, and that actually helps me just listen, instead of thinking about music theory, traditional song structure, or even performance: The polyrhythms happen without me needing to actively recognize them, the ebbs and flows in tempo help the song move along organically, and the whole thing has a nice improvised feel that I find relaxing. It’s sort of got a contemporary classical/musical theatre vibe. It almost sounds like a song a character in a play would play on a piano in the set on stage.

I think the thing that takes me out of the nice meandering dream is the mix, which obviously is hard to change given that its just a Zoom and/or iPhone. But I think maybe even just a little [more] reverb could help. I think this is stuck between “Guy Playing Piano and Singing” and “Magic Dreamland”. The recording is just clear enough to sound like I’m in the real-life room with you, but just blurry enough to not sound like how I imagine a “live album” recording should. Conversely, the sound quality is almost “weird” enough to transport me to Magicland, but still sounds enough like you’re just in a room in Medford to anchor me back down to earth. For me to feel HIGH OCTANE WHISTFULNESS and be floated to a place of childlike wonder and sentimentality, I need the audio to somehow be more provocative.

Totally get that you recorded this with those specific tools for a reason, but I think If you were to take this piece to the next step, it’d be with a more lush and deep mix/soundscape. It’s tricky because obviously just layering on “Trippy Psychedelic Effects, bro” is not the way to instantly make it work, but I also think it needs… something?

Nice work. Good to “meet” you, and glad to have you here!

nick July 23, 2020 9:27am

Yeah, this is quite a nice listen. In regards to @@ryan.mp3 ‘s comment about grounding it with percussion, that could definitely work, but there is also something very unique about the organic unchained approach you have to the polyrhythms that I wouldn’t want to lose with extra rhythmic contextualizing. It’s all very metronomically inspired, and very expressive. And your style has that rubato-esque musical theater thread running through it, which feels very natural for you and is on beautiful display in this piece.

Ryan July 20, 2020 9:22pm

Sheesh, this is cool as hell. Some mind-bogglingly beautiful piano sections. I certainly think, to answer your question, you should very much like all the piano parts. Reminds me of a rawer Gabriel Kahane—which is super appealing because I find Kahane’s stuff gorgeous but just a touch too shiny sometimes. Vocals have a bit of an Akron/Family vibe—another artist I do indeed enjoy.

I agree with @@alechutson that the piece sounds like it wants to be orchestrated. Strings on this would be a dream (and in that way, complement the dreaminess of the lyrics). I also think some subtle percussion during certain sections could make the polyrhythms a bit more grounded and therefore easier to enjoy—I think, although it would be grounding them, it wouldn’t sacrifice the free-flowing nature of the piece that you’re looking to preserve. Those complex piano parts floating over a grounded percussion part would only exude more of that feeling.

Great work on this. And thanks for being here!

Nate July 23, 2020 10:41am

ooh Akron/Family !! a new band for me to get into. “Love is simpllleeeee”

How deep are you into Kahane’s disco? He’s given enough different looks over the decade that its hard for me to say he’s too much one way with anything. But I am a super-fan sooo maybe I have a bias 🙂

Thanks for lsitening!

Ryan July 23, 2020 11:18am

Very fair! Kahane definitely runs the gamut. Ummm, I’m familiar with Where Are the Arms through Book of Travelers. It’s more some production choices that irk me than the compositional stuff. I think he is an incredible writer.

alechutson July 20, 2020 7:45pm

Hey friend! This is a massage for the brain.

I’d love to hear this with some verrrrb on your voice so that it can swim with the piano a bit more. I can hear this with an orchestral arrangement if you chose to take it that direction.

Thanks for your submission 🙂

Nate July 23, 2020 10:36am

yes! I recorded it straight into a zoom… so 0 production lol. I’d love it to have a production feel to “Book of Travelers” — that Gabriel Kahane album I recommended.

Advice solicitation: a human without much munz making a demo, what would you think of doing to get an orchestral arrangement? mock something up and have computers play it? Maybe write it and ask some talented friends to do a small number?

Thanks Alec !

Carseat July 19, 2020 9:43pm

I really dig the idea of the decreasing polyrhythms [5-4-3]. I’m also just a sucker for polyrhythmic piano in the first place [@@krismccarthy listen to this!]. You hit some craaaaazy tense and relaxing chords. I’m a fan. The “airplanes” section offered great contrast to the polyrhythms.

“I am uncorking a Spectacular bottle of misanthropic love songs” is an incredible lyric.

Nate July 23, 2020 10:33am

Suggested Listening! I definitely ripped off/was loosely inspired from a line from this song. Gabriel Kahane is your guy for polyrhythms in songs. You may like some of his instrumental arrangements. I could geek out for a while on this guy

@@ryan.mp3 have you heard this track?

Thanks for listening & for the comment!

Ryan July 23, 2020 11:26am

Yeah that’s a nice one. Here’s my go-to Gabe-on-polyrhythms piece: