Writing music and noises

2023. 03. 05. 12:11 | \English \random \toki pona

Today I worked on an instrumental song that features an arrangement that's weird, even for me. By virtue of not really playing any instrument (by musician's standards), I tend to levitate towards those that I kind of do:

  • Ukulele (my first*),
  • Kalimba (newest obsession) and
  • Stylophone (will become obsession as soon as I can affort to get a Gen X-1, currently only having an S-1).

Lacking any formal education, I began writing music probably in a similar way as many self-thought musicians do (although it feels even just to write something that may imply that I'm also a musician): I transcribed music from pre-existing transcriptions with slight changes and experimenting with notation (such as Sister Sara's Theme, Handlebars by Flobots and Greensleeves for low-g ukulele and guitalele). Alternatively, I transcribed melodies that began as an improvisation and built upon it (Melancholimba, Pretty Sleepy and Pretty Sad Playful).

Right after these, using the same "try to come up with an original melody", came Away an' away, which has kalimba, but it's not the main instrument. That one was my first real attempt to write something original. Granted, it's rather simple, but it has a charm that I really like. Then, came the first major challenge.

Figuring out how I wanted to tackle olin li tawa jan ale, I made a short score containing nothing but the main melody of the 3 beats I used originally, their keys, their chord progressions and tempo. After some consideration and quick experimentation on my ukulele, I settled on 85 bpm (originals were between 80 and 105), and a simple chord progression of i-iv7-VI-V in A harmonic minor. Why the harmonic minor? Because I have a kalimba that had a duplicate A4 (middle A) note, one of which I tuned down by a semitone to G#, and on which I improv'd the now iconic melody that only I think to be iconic. All was well, except I had to write music, so based on the melody I reverse-engineered the aforementioned chord progression and promptly added a ukulele part (replaced by yueqin in the final product). To have a base, I added chellos and electric bass, then changed my mind and added a double bass instead, but I wanted more attack, switched back to bass, (many lines removed), hence I now have both electric bass and double bass on the track. To make it sound "fuller", I added a drone in formo of a synth playing chords and glissing between them. I was happy with it for the most part, but wanted to have a brighter sound at certain parts, thus a glockenspiel was included to accompany the kalimba and I was done!
For two days, then I added our final addition, the violin for the 3rd verse. And to the first one about a week later. Oh and somewhere in the middle a drum line. When all was said and done, it became my largest score and to date the score with the most instruments.**

Being happy and feeling accomplished, I wrote Kalimbastic duing a vacation. I had 2 kalimbas with me that I used for the melody, added some drums and it was done, it's all percussive.

In Memoriam began as a score for Guitalele, Stylophone and Kalimba before Guitalele was switched out for a Guitar (because I really wanted a note just below A2, its lowest note) and Kalimba for a Glockenspiel.

This arrangement further reassured me and for my birthday, I wrote Yet Another Day Closer, which is technically a cover of "Happy Birthday To You".

God Left Ye, Merry Gentlemen is a song-specific rendition of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (that I also transcribed/rearranged after finishing my version), featuring a Cello Steel Drums in place of a "bass kalimba".

For my friend's birthday, I rearranged Happy Birthday To You for two kalimbas.

Northern Ideas began as a cover of Þat mælti mín móðir, I only changed the voice line into a lyre part later after I made sure that I will not be able to sing it. I really like how it turned out, almost as much as I would have liked if I could find Gemshorn samples.

Even though I used a synth in *olin ni li musi taso tawa jan ale", musi ni li moli ala sama mi was the first score that was heavily reliant on synths. Besides a samples vibraphone, it only uses Tunefish4 in every other parts.

Finally, there's Mystic Dark Lively that made me write this post, as it was deemed finished today and only finishing touches are left to do. It features a highly unorthodox set of instruments, those being (roughly in order of addition):

  • Kalimba,
  • Drone (synth),
  • Stylophone,
  • Bassoon and
  • Celesta.

Two other things about Mystic Dark Lively: its name come from a random online article that described how different musical modes "feel" (this being in phrygian) and it was originally written for one purpose, that being to create a melody for a 10-note kalimba that I just got to have something to play.

Also have a track using 5 ukuleles (soprano, low-g, concert/tenor with standar tuning, baritone, bass and "stringless") by the name of Sate Bye, which is proven difficult to make work in production (due to not knowing how ot tackle some of its quirky stuff). This one is based on a pre-existing song. No, I won't tell you which one.

Now, let's talk about the elephant in the room: why do I name my music the way I do?

There are 2 main categories, if the score is for something with vocals and I already have at least draft lyrics, I change their titles to be more "musical" (e.g. olin li tawa jan ale becoming *olin ni li musi taso tawa jan ale"). And if the score needs a new title, I go for whatever feeling or vibe it gives me, hence "pretty sleepy", etc.

The even bigger elephant in the room is, "why do my music sound the way it does?"
The lackluster answer is: I don't know, it was as much of a surprise for me as it was for you. I usually don't plan out music in detail (olin ni li musi taso tawa jan ale being the exception) and that's what I ended up with. I like this style of music though, probably that's why I instinctly wrote like this, the only remaining mystery is, what genre of music they are? I honestly don't know.

That's about everything I can think of, more than 1 hour ago I thought "Imma write up a short post about making music in 10-15 minutes"... I was so young and naïve.

That's all for now, have a lovely day!

*: If I want to be technical, I sort of had a few guitar lessons before I got my first ukulele, but for all instents and purposes, I learned playing the ukulele from scratch with the pre-existing knowledge of how to hold an instrument from the lute family. Also, I still technically have a Guitalele that I try to sell and never really played. **: Then during production, a stylophone line was added to the hook, it's not even on the score as it just plays the kalimba part.

PS: Written on a 7 year old hybrid netbook that I freshly revived by installing Debian 11.6 (stable) on it. Everything works, except I have no sound and I can't adjust the brightness. On bootup I get an *ERROR* Failed to get the SOC PWM chip, which might be linked to both of those issues. I have multiple logs, issue and bug reports opened about it (some of them are even solved ones!), but I couldn't get myself to work on it anymore. I have set it up mostly as I want, wrote a short script to be able to change the screen and touchscreen input's oriantation and it runs decently. One minor issue I have is that I was only able to install 32-bit (without much work; the hardware fully support 64-bit, except for the EFI that's 32-bit) OS, so I had to give up using some software, such as Visual Studio Code, Discord, Typora or Google Chrome -- I know that Chrome is bad, but I have my profile set up and synced, it's my data, I made a conscious choice that comfort worths more to me than that not immeasurable amount of private data I'm willingly giving up.

_The End_

PS2: All my music are avaible on soundcloud! https://soundcloud.com/dschorsaanjo

< Work has been paused for a while now... | The name's [ʔn̩]. [ˈzo̞.ʔn̩] >


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