Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Song Bio #2

So I wrote another song for the SpinTunes songwriting competition. Listen to it here:

Felix Frost - Amber Avalance

The challenge for this round was to write a musical Valentine to someone other than your significant other.

I felt it would be a little silly for me to write a song to someone else I love, like a family member or friend, just because this is eventually going on an album and I'd like to keep things a little more interesting. Also, the album I'm working on is full of songs featuring fictional stories, with made-up characters. So, after an email to the contest runner asking if I could, I wrote it to a fictional woman. An airplane racing pilot named Amber Avalanche. From the point of view of a wealthy gambler who won a lot of money by betting on her and inevitably fell in love with her because of his gratitude.

The airplane races, in the story, are set somewhere in the deep arctic. I guess I did that to coincide with the cold of February, but mostly I just like to put stories in icy settings. The races take place among a mountain range too, so I guess that's naturally snowy. The lyrics are pretty straightforward, and I'll put them at the end of the post so you can see for yourself. Basically the man in the song, Wellington Wright, is a descendant of the Wright Brothers so he's already a super fan of all things aerial, right? Well, you'd think. And you'd be right. The song is just him professing his love--nothing too complex or ironic.

The first section is in a poppy love-song style, wherein Wellington explains where he first won money off of Amber's excellent flying, navigating her plane through a narrow frozen cavern. This section has a lot of repetition, and the use of verses and choruses which I almost never do. I prefer things to be through-composed because it's a lot more rewarding to listen to, and it keeps your attention for longer because after you write the verse and chorus of a traditional song you're already basically done. So I did throw in some ending sections to keep myself happy; but it wasn't arbitrary. The ending sections reflect a shift in mood. The first section is a very down-to-earth story of how Wellington came to love Amber, and how he's sending a letter on Valentine's day, the anniversary of her first win. But the second section is more of a fantasy sequence. The music slows down and becomes sort of dreamy and ethereal, the drums drop out, and Wellington sings about his dreams with Amber--the abstract fantasy of their love, flying through clouds and whatnot. Then, after a pretty harp interlude, we're into the final section of the song. This shows another shift in Wellington's mood. This is the moment where he decides to stop fawning over her and tell her how he feels. "I've been grounded long enough, I'll take flight and action." The music becomes stranger, heavier, and louder to show his ambition, I guess, and his drive to make Amber love him back.

The song ends suddenly as it does for three reasons. One: all the songs on my album do so that they lead directly into one another like one piece of music. Two: the sagging noise at the end of the song is supposed to resemble an airplane engine cutting out. Three: the noise is a little sad and droopy, which kind of puts a pessimistic twist at the end--like Wellington realizes he'll never gain the affections of such a celebrity as Amber. It's kind of like an "Aw..too bad..." sound.

Also, that reminds me of some of the cheesy sound effects in the song. At the beginning you can hear real audio of planes flying over head, and during some of the choruses you can hear the following: an airplane trying start up, the engine eventually kicking in, the cheering crowd at the arctic races, and distorted radio signals.

I hope you enjoy the song, thanks for reading!

Lyrics:

Dear Amber, you don't know me.
I'm a gambler and your biggest fan.
You can call me Wellington Wright.
And oh, Ms. Avalanche, I'd love to be your man.

I'm a descendant of the airplane pioneers.
That's how I came to find your line of work, my dear;
the famous contest: the Arctic Races,
and the champion polar pilot the aerial angel, Amber Avalanche.

I bet a lot of money on your crimson-colored aircraft
on this winter day last year, a frigid rigid Valentine's Day.

You whistled through a frozen cave,
a missile through my chest would save
a bitten heart to thaw and bleed
smitten as you take the lead.

Ever since then, that February,
you know I've been proudly wearing,
that white feather badge upon my chest
that fell to the ground from your leather vest.

I forever follow the flights
of the beautiful Amber Avalanche,
and just like your winning record
my love for you is undefeated.

Ever since then, that February,
you know I've been proudly wearing,
that white feather badge upon my chest
that fell to the ground from your leather vest.

You whistled through a frozen cave,
a missile through my chest would save
a bitten heart to thaw and bleed
smitten as you take the lead.

I dream of us flying by turbines,
riding on mountain wakes
and taming the waves
of crowded blizzard clouds.

I've been grounded long enough.
I'll take flight and action.
The other racers can't seem to catch you
but planes aren't fueled by passion.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Spintunes

I signed up for a song writing contest called SpinTunes.

For the first round the challenge was to write a song about a childhood nightmare with significant use of rubato.

Here was my submission:


It's a pretty unusual song, I'd say. Although a lot of the songs for this round in the challenge resembled mine in that they seemed to have movements. They were sectional--less repetitive, etc.

This song is about a nightmare I had a looong time ago. It was pretty simple--or at least the parts I remember were simple. I was on the second floor of my parents' house and the floor was missing, or made of glass or something. And walking around were these hideous aliens. They were dingy orange--like they were made of rust (get it?) and their heads were solid rectangular blocks. No eyes or noses or mouths. And all over their bodies were these bright blue veins. Gross, I know. My brother was walking around too, saying "Mom? Mom?" But I eventually cut that part out of the lyrics. Then it shifted to this odd scene in some cramped orphanage with a bunch of children crowded in a small room with beds coming out of the walls like those bird nests that people find in caves made out of spit. And the guy who ran the orphanage had a hollow head, and instead of forehead wrinkles, there were cracks in his head and light was shining through. Finally, I somehow ended up in this big quicksand pit, which was more like a big waterbed blanket--a squishy rubber tarp that was swallowing me up while my friends and family looked down at me. At first I was just sort of rolling around, not worried. Then, as I tried harder and harder to climb out I got that infamous nightmare feeling in my stomach that "Oh crap. I'm not going to survive this," feeling. Which, of course, woke me up.

Each part of the song reflects a different section of the dream. And the musical style was supposed to imitate the feelings I got from each part of the dream. The intro of the song is just a creepy prologue, of sorts. No real significance there aside from the fact that it sets up the mood of a nightmare song, and uses lots of rubato. But the first lyrical section is about the rust people, with the veins and such. It's got a semi-creepy sound with a few minor chords, but for the most part it's upbeat, because that part of the dream wasn't quite as eerie as it sounds. It was sort of silly almost, playfully bizarre. Then, as it happened in the dream, it fuzzes out into a sort of ambient gray-area. I don't remember how I got from the rust people to the orphanage, so to reflect that I put in another creepy, drumless rubato section. Then we end up at the orphanage, which was the creepiest part of the dream, so the beat is very slow, the melody is dark, the voice is doubled up in both ears and loaded with echo-effect. Then there's an abrupt shift to the rubber quicksand scene--an abrupt shift in the dream as well as in the music. Since the quicksand scene started out to be not entirely frightening, the music is once again upbeat but ends with the line "I realize this is how I die." And as soon as that line is delivered the music shifts into the final movement of the song, which is another playful melody to incorporate the childhood elements. There's a xylophone and a childlike synth organ which works to illustrate both me being a child when I had the dream, and the orphanage. BUT, even though it's playful there's a lot of dissonance going on and there's a swarm of frightening laughter in the background--sort of like jesters or demon-things cackling. I was trying to go for this unsettling off-color feeling, like when you listen to it you hear an odd mixture of pleasant sounds and haunting ones.

The song ends there, unresolved as most nightmares are. I never officially died in the dream, so the music cuts off after the child-like section.

The song was made entirely using one keyboard and my voice. Eventually I think it'll end up on the musical album I'm currently working on--which is getting pretty long at this point. That album is a series of song-couplets, several sets of two songs that are connected in theme. There are two songs that tell the story of a pirate ship, two songs that tell the story of a religious man who sells fireworks, two songs about a man who works at a blast furnace, and some other ones. So if I do put this nightmare song on the album I'll have to write an accompanying song about nightmares, I suppose, to go with it. I hope you enjoy it! You can download it for free at Spintunes.blogspot.com; BUT you should download the whole album "Night Terrors," for two reasons: a) You get to hear all the other awesome artists doing the same challenge and b) The site only gets a set number of downloads, so it's more efficient to download 34 songs as ONE download rather than individual songs.
THANKS!

Here are the lyrics:

Started with the rust people,
blocks for heads with sky-blue veins
like roots around clay
Echo-locating through humming, vibrating
Wandering wisely around the floor
invisible, missing, illusion or glass
Sand slipping from my scalp, falling fast

Then shift to the crowded orphanage
Children spilling from layered beds
Overseeing them is the hollow man
Light splitting through the cracks in his head

Finally turning to the rubber pool
of quicksand blankets of stretch-foam suffocation
as I see my friends and family looking down
I realize this is how I die