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SAC Challenge Week 5 – in which I murder a ballad!

 

Here’s the link to my new song written for this week called “Broken”. I wrote it and played all the instruments and sang it, and recorded it all in less than one day.

www.soundcloud.com/michael-holland-11/broken

OK, so I confessed last week that I was too snuggly and friendly to be of much use at writing “edgy” songs.

Naturally, I was in line for a little karmic payback, so this week the Songwriters Association of Canada challenge 2015 decided that I should write about a serial killer!

I rolled up my sleeves and pursued a few title ideas as far as half-completed songs, but nothing really struck me all week long.

I made little progress until I woke up on the morning of the deadline for posting the song to SoundCloud, and found that I had an idea in mind at last that I felt good about writing and recording quickly enough but which had great possibilities for a haunting sound and feel.

The thing that is perhaps most interesting about a serial killer operating behind the scenes in a civil society isthat they are clearly broken in some terrible way. I decided that my title would be “Broken”, and hoped that my song would not be. Lines of lyric had to be relatively unstable, and disquieting in subject matter. I wanted a lot of verbs that were evocative, and dark in tone.

Most of the day was spent writing words, and attempting to develop a suitably minor-sounding melodic phrase with somewhat unpredictable notes and durations, to unsettle listeners and set an appropriately moody atmosphere of gothic mystery and mayhem.

As fast as I could, I recorded organ, piano, bass, banjo and was ready to add the vocal. The only difficulty would be matching the banjo parts with my vocal phrasing. Having only attempted to play a banjo for a few months, I’m pretty limited in my knowledge, but for this challenge that did not matter at all. Simple and haunting was the order of the day.

Astute readers may notice that my featured image for this post shows an acoustic guitar being recorded in stereo, but the song itself has no guitar part!  The image simply appealed to me!

This song was outside my normal area of musical endeavour, and took a lot of struggle to write words that would fit the corners I had painted myself into – the parameters of the syllabic stresses were fixed and had to double-track a banjo riff’s bluesy phrasing.

Thanks to Pat Pattison’s books on lyric writing and rhymes, I soon burrowed deep into the scene, and enjoyed myself describing the demise of a poor unwary victim. It was not so hard to get into character, and I can only think this is what comes of seeing autopsies on prime time TV every hour on the hour.

Enjoy! Lyrics are at SoundCloud with the song.

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dream beautiful music tonight