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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Song Number 26: Escape on Amenartas


Come on, now - it's time to put your money where my mouth is.  I've been going at this for half a year now - not many people who start a song a week project get this far - surely that's worth a bob or two for Parkinson's UK? Please donate generously by visiting www.justgiving.com/songaweek or clicking on the widget on the top right there!

When you do something for a job that for most people would be a hobby - whether that's music, art or stripping - there are times when it feels too much like work.  So this song was made for me to enjoy my music again after a pretty gruelling couple of weeks!  And now, a long and tedious account of how it was made:

I wrote it yesterday at one of my student's houses, at her piano (thanks, Gill & Brian!).  Writing somewhere neutral without any distractions (Internet be damned!) really helped a great deal.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, which definitely influenced things.  As ever, the main piano riff came first - a bubbling 5/8 thing, which I like to think avoids the stodginess of 6/8 without being too jerky (see Seven Days by Sting or Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet).

I wasn't sure what to write the song about, so I turned to my hosts' bookshelves for inspiration.  With them being keen on sailing, there were plenty of nautical books, one of which was Gypsy Afloat by Ella K Maillart, an account of one of the 20th Century's most celebrated traveller's years as a sea-bound hitchhiker.  One of the chapters was entitled "Escape on Amenartas", which grabbed me straight away.  Using that as a starting point, it was a pretty straightforward job articulating the fantasy that just about all of us have had at some point, namely sticking two fingers up at the rat race and buggering off to sail around the world.

I'm going to be a
This morning was spent recording the track.  Basic piano track to map out the tempo changes in Logic; Drums; Bass... then before adding the main vocal line I started layering up the instruments in the mid sections such as the harp, guitar, sax and strings, as well as percussion (bongos; cabasa; maracas; clicks and other oral noises; and the back of an acoustic guitar in lieu of a cajon).  Lead vocal came next, which I double tracked in places, followed by oohs and ahhs for backing vocals. 

There's a line in there which initially I heard as a harmonic caused by something else (very quiet tremolo guitar part, I think), that sounded like a trombone... so I doubled it with a trombone sound.  I always think if you hear a note or a rhythm or a harmony that you've not actually recorded, but that's implied by other sounds meshing together, it's nice to add another instrument to pick it out - I figure it's the song telling you what it wants to say.  Ooh, that was a bit hippy of me.  Anyway...

The swelling cymbal sound (right at the beginning) was created by recording a cymbal crash, reversing a copy of it, and sticking them both together.  It takes a bit of tinkering to iron out the attacks and get a nice smooth sound, but it's worth it - half way between a mallet roll and a bowed cymbal effect.  Totally studio-created, but it's very pretty and I use it quite a lot in ballads like this.

Anyways, that's about that.  I like this one, and I hope you do too - please leave your comments here, on the Facebook page or even drop me a line through Twitter.  It really means a lot when I hear from people about the project.  I just can't believe it's been six months already!  Here's to the next 26 songs!

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