Geologic Time on a Giannini Craviola
January was busy, and I only just managed to post a song to my YouTube channel in the very last hour of the month, so I am writing this post about my January song in February, as you can see. But it is a good, geeky little song inspired by Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and it features a quirky, groovy Brazilian guitar, so it's all good, right?!
About the song, and why it's a little on the late side
Those of you who follow my monthly musings (hi Greg!) may have noticed that December's posting, Utica Crossing, morphed into January's entry in the NPR Tiny Desk Contest. To satisfy the rules for entry in that contest, I needed a desk in the video somewhere. So I went back up to Shab Row Recording and brought along an old desk from our basement and recorded the footage of me outside the recording booth. We spliced it onto the front end of the original video and, voila, a new video that satisfied all the criteria of the contest. I toyed with calling that enough creative activity for the month of January, but there is a part of me that thinks each month deserves a unique song, sooooo I scooted back up and recorded this fun little love song on the last day of the month. Ace engineer Doug Smith graciously handled the production duties, getting me the video in time for me to post it before the clock struck midnight on the 31st. I don't know why it matters to me. Anal I guess.
I wrote this song a few years back after hearing a piece about music composition on NPR. They were talking with some composer about how Brazilian pop uses a lot of major 7th chords, and that many of the classic pop melodies from the 30's and 40's employ more complex intervals than is common in the sort of rotely pentatonic melodies common in modern rock/pop. So of course I had to write a song that used major 7th chords and had a little less conventional melodic arc, but has strong elements of contemporary rock/pop, just to show that I could do it.
I begin the melody with an octave. Just like Some Where Over the Rainbow, only singing "hold my hand". The word hand is sung on the 9th tone over a major 7th chord. Aren't I sophisticated? The B section takes a rising arc that just keeps rising to deliver what seems to be the climax of the song, but then falls off to deliver the goods in a more reflective manner. Short, sweet: one verse, a chorus of sorts, and a reprise of the verse.
I originally recorded this song, right after writing it, using a slow phase shifted guitar giving it a rhythmic feel akin to the Replacements Within My Reach from Hootenany (my B section here has a lot to do with that Westerberg gem, come to think of it). I still often play this song with phase shifted chorusy stuff, but I really wanted to play the Craviola, so I opted for a more organic, acoustic feel this time. It's a fun song to sing, and I was more focused on that.
OK, but what's it got to do with Bryson's book?
The whole conceit of the song is that life is short, and love is precious. The line "Our forever is such a little while, when you think of it, in geologic time" just popped out of my mouth as I sang along to the chords. This was the easiest set of lyrics I've produced. They just came out of my mouth as I sang the melody into the stock Window's recorder program on our old desk top computer. I had just read Bryson's book (a Christmas present from sis...Hi Sis!) and I loved the first chapter, which drives home just how little time human's have been on the scene, and is probably why I was amused by the romantic concept of forever juxtaposed against the reality of geology.