Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Circle Of Life

Well that was a lot of fun. Where do you start with the axolotl? In talking to Will Betts who provided the backing track he let slip that the name is derived from a Mexican deity. Bingo I thought. A quick word with Mexican deity afficianado Birdman's Nick and I was led to a short story about the Axolotl by Julio Cortazar. You can read it online if you're interested, it's a cracker. Anyway, without giving the story away, the song follows the main premise of the short. I think the finished track with all its inherent subtleties works in its own right but listeners will find new and exciting hidden depths by first reading Cortazar's choral catalyst. Enjoy! For those interested, due to constraints the writing recording and mixing process had to fit into 2, 2 hour sessions. Cramming like this was an absolute blast and led to some creative ideas which may have otherwise slept in the dark caves of the Jardin des Plantes, Paris.

Monday, August 15, 2011

So long and thanks for all the fishing...

SPOILER ALERT: lyrics provided at bottom of post.

I'm just about finished with the production of the song about the Coelacanth, on the backing track and subject provided by Mike Weber. I'm glad for the extra week. It was only on the 13th that I realized the deadline had been extended. I'd been scrambling. I'll use the remaining few days to pick at and fuss over the mix at my leisure, but we're really getting out the super fine grade sand paper at this point. I haven't yet decided on the title, but here are the lyrics. Please ignore if you don't want spoilers.

I am the living fossil discovered in a lump of rock the year the bicycle was born.
And I am the Lazarus taxon. You thought that I'd expired 80 million years ago,
but you were wrong.
A hundred years later I was hauled up from my underwater home.

The Paleozoic's been good to me,
and every age from then to now has let me be.
Oh, you don't know what you're missing.
I've got a hinged skull and a hollow spine.
Before you came along I was doing fine.
Well this may be your last chance to see...
So long and thanks for all the fishing.

I am an eco-warrior. Sleeping in the cold caves helps to conserve energy.
And I use my lobed fins to drift the currents when I need to feed.
You could learn a thing or two from me.

Well the Paleozoic was good to me,
and the late Cretaceous failed to put an end to my tree.
Oh, there's been some hard times it's true.
But now the sun is setting on the Chalumnae line.
If you fish us from existence will it weigh on your mind?
These pre-historic creatures are one helluva find.
So long and thank you.

Just think, I was the missing link
between the fishes and the creatures who emerged from the drink,
until a young museum curator discovered me
among the catch of the day of the trawler Nerine.

I'm not pretty to look at, not good to eat.
I can sometimes reach the mighty length of five or six feet.
The fishing boats snag me accidentally.
They used to throw me right back, but that's before they knew me.

You see, every damned collector wants to put me in glass,
tour me round the world - yeah, make some good cash.
The thing that made me such a curiosity
will result in my extinction eventually.
It makes me wonder how many others are just like me -
assumed to be extinct but really just out of reach.
Now this really is your last chance to see.
So long and thanks for all the fishing.

I've spent the last couple of weeks in rural France but at the same time I've been immersing myself in the Himalayas to write a song about the elusive and beautiful snow leopard. I read Peter Matthieson's 1978 travelogue The Snow Leopard; ultimately an unsuccessful search for the cat itself but a highly evocative piece of writing describing his inner meditations and outer journey trekking through the Himalayas - a wonderful piece of scene setting (and made me feel more sympathetic towards my old teacher of Himalayan architecture at Uni whose lectures were utterly dry but I guess he must have had similar adventures to Matthiesen so standing in a campus classroom would have been in dull contrast for him). Yesterday I watched a couple of natural history docs which have given me some insight into snow leopard behaviour and their apparently solitary lifestyles, though they do maintain constant hands-off (paws-off?) contact via scenting certain points in their trail - seemingly a way to keep in touch as well as warning each other away and for most of the year they are generally a week apart from each other at all time. Joyfully, I woke up this morning with a sketch of a song in my head so I'm on track to keeping to the deadline (I think).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Working with Kelly on Layla's Golden Tamarin backing track. Been listening to lots of John & Yoko recently, and I think I'm going to encourage Kelly to try some Yoko-style primal singing! Its a mesmerizing backing-track, so I think we're going to try some experimental rhythmic vocals.

Just finished a rough vocal on Julian's backing track - the subject is the incredibly endangered Red Slender Loris, whose Sri Lankan forest habitat has been chopped down to make floors. The poor little buggers are also hunted to make 'medicine' for stupid people's eyes. There seems almost no hope for the Red Slender Loris, but upon reading about them, I found them to be such fun-loving mules I found it hard to write anything particularly maudlin. Jules' awesome backing track is suitably cheeky and upbeat, so I took a lighter approach - somewhere between Harry Nilsson, Simon & Garfunkel and Randy Newman (now I've got to try and sing half as well as those guys!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Lazarus Fish

I'm flying to the US tomorrow and so I've been scrambling to write the song and sing the vocals to go with Mike Weber's excellent Coelacanth track. I don't want to lug recording equipment around in suitcases. Well, I got the lyrics done Monday with a few tweaks occurring yesterday. I think they're pretty good. At any rate, it was the best I could do in the available time. I did a bunch of recording over the last couple nights and I'll do some more tonight, but I nearly have all the tracks I need. Then when I'm away I can do the mixing almost at leisure. Still plenty of time. I haven't decided on a title yet, but it may feature the Lazarus reference. I'm chuffed that I've managed to get in some Douglas Adams. The choruses finish with "...last chance to see. So long and thanks for all the fishing." :)