Wednesday, February 1, 2012


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; 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.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment