Jul 23 2017

Songwriting Advice

MUSIC TEACHER: Accent marks should be used sparingly. It’s generally considered bad form to write a song in which *every* word in the verse is accented.

AUTHOR OF ‘ROCKY TOP’: Hold my beer.

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Feb 5 2016

Quotable: Jonathan Leeman on congregational singing

“Far better than the sweet harmonies of a few trained singers is the rough and hale sound of pardoned criminals, delighting with one voice in their Savior.”

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Jan 8 2016

Quotable: Keith Getty

“I grew up an Irish Presbyterian, so what that means is when we go to rugby matches and beat England like we did at the weekend, we scream and shout and roar and jump our hands in the air.

Then we going to church on Sundays and talk about being miraculously saved from Hell and we stand there like somebody stole our donuts.”

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Mar 20 2015

The Touch

The Touch is a Stan Busch song that was included on the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack. As far as 80’s rock songs go, it is 3 minutes of pure distilled 80’s awesomeness that will make you yearn for ye olden dayes of yore when Transformers and G. I. Joe were cool the first time.

However, the song might have the highest amount of clichés I have ever seen–perhaps even more than most country songs. I have pasted the entire lyrics and highlited the clichés in red:

 

The Touch

You got the touch, you got the power

After all is said and done, you’ve never walked
You’ve never run, you’re a winner
You got the moves, you know the streets
Break the rules, take the heat, you’re nobody’s fool

You’re at your best when when the goin’ gets rough
You’ve been put to the test but it’s never enough

You got the touch, you got the power
When all hell’s breakin’ loose
You’ll be riding the eye of the storm

You got the heart, you got the motion
You know that when things get too tough
You got the touch

You never bend, you never break, you seem to know
Just what it takes, you’re a fighter, it’s in the blood
It’s in the will, it’s in the mighty hands of steel
When you’re standin’ your ground

And you never get hit when your back’s to the wall
Gonna fight to the end and you’re takin’ it all

You got the touch, you got the power
When all hell’s breakin’ loose
You’ll be riding the eye of the storm

You got the heart, you got the motion
You know that when things get too tough
You got the touch

You’re fightin’ fire with fire, you know you got the touch
You’re at your best when when the road gets rough
You’ve been put to the test, but it’s never enough

You got the touch, you got the power
You got the touch, you got the power

My favorite has got to be verse 2, which has 5 clichés in a row.

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Feb 23 2015

Boobam

“The name boobam was coined in Mill Valley, California in 1954 and was described as “bamboo spelled sideways”.”

–from the Wikipedia article on the awesomely named instrument.

Update: I was reviewing my blog posts and figured I ought to clarify the pronunciation of this instrument. It should be pronounced like too separate words, with the stress on the first: Boo Bam.

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Jan 21 2015

Supercalawhatever

“Supercalafragilisticexpialidocious, even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious”

It takes a bold lyricist to admit when his song is obnoxious in the very lyrics of said song.

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Feb 26 2014

Follow up: Donegal Danny

Some time ago I opined that the folk song Donegal Danny contained an erroneous lyric, e.g., “the cries of drowning men.” At the time I snarkily mentioned that the only sound thatI thought drowning men would make was, “glub.”

Well, it turns out that I am right. There is an excellent article at Slate called ‘Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.’ In addition to verifying my rightness, it contains several valuable tips on how to spot and help a drowning victim. I am listing two Danny-related ones: 

  1. “Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
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Sep 6 2013

Quotable: John Moltz

“As for the Surface, Microsoft was forced to write off its unsold inventory to the tune of $900 million, which is a really lousy song. Like Coldplay, Nickelback, and Creed all got together and collaborated on a song.” –from his MacWorld article on device philosophy

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May 14 2013

Fiddle Songs vs. Cocaine Songs

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Mar 7 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #10: Gospel vs. Blues

Both gospel and blues are musical traditions rooted in the American South, both are based in tragedy, pain, and misery. But the difference between gospel and blues is that the gospel offers hope. The very nature of the blues is that there is no hope. Your heart is broke, you’re probably going to die from it–and then things will get worse. Don’t matter whether it’s deserved or not, the point is that it stinks–and there’s nothing you can do about it.

It is completely true–I totally borrowed a plot element from a major motion picture for my VBS. The key difference is that the motion picture is a blues song. The character in the movie never changes–she begins selfish, everything she does is selfish, and the very last thing she does–committing suicide–is still selfish. There is no hope. To quote an oft-forwarded email, “The Blues are not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch; ain’t no way out.”

In my story there is hope–and change. Our protagonist does change–certainly beginning selfish, but becoming different. The funny thing is that for years I wanted to write an Iron Man kind of story–a selfish jerk goes through some really bad things and comes out on the other side different–better different–than he was before. But I never could seem to get it right; the scripts ended up morphing into something else. But this year I have inadvertently written that story.

From a storytelling perspective you want to see that change. If the character is the same in the first act as he is in the third act, then what was the point of this story? If Tony Stark is the same after becoming Iron Man as he was before he became Iron Man, the movie would be a failure (I’m looking at you, Jumper).

From a teaching standpoint you want to communicate that there is hope. If I fail to communicate that, then why did I write this VBS? If my only success is as a storyteller, then I have failed, because I missed the point of telling the story.

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