Archive for the ‘Old Tunes’ Category

The 24 Second Song

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Five years ago, I participated in a project of Angie Lehman’s while she was a student at CCS. She asked artists to make a 24 second recording inspired by a photograph and then made graphic designs based on these songs. The songs had to be composed and recorded within one hour of viewing the photo and could only feature one percussion instrument and one melodic instrument.

Here is the photo I received:

My initial thought when I saw this photo was a racetrack for mice. (I later found out it’s a picture of National Coney Island.) This initial thought led to the idea of mice drag racing. Which led to the idea of a 24 second mouse version of “Leader of the Pack” without lyrics. I made “voice” my percussion instrument so I could add a melody and chose acoustic guitar as my instrument. Using the ol’ Cool Edit Pro, I played with voice speed and quickly recorded the following structure:
– A section, mice singing in C major (happy key) as the race is about to begin
– B section, the race happens
– C section, mice sing again in A minor (sad key) as a low voice (DEATH) joins in

Like I said, it’s only 24 seconds long and it was written/recorded in under an hour (more like 30 minutes), so take it for what it is.

The 24 Second Song

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So I sent this to Angie and she used it to make the following print piece. The top is the email exchange we had, and the bottom is the design inspired by the piece.

And there you go – homework done! Here’s a summary of the project from Angie’s portfolio site (where all six posters are displayed):

These posters were created by method of chance. I randomly took pictures by pointing the camera without looking through the viewfinder at places that were open 24/7. I then selected the 7th photo from each location and sent it to a musician.

I told each participant that they had to write a 24 second song based on the photograph. They had only one hour to write the song and the time started when they looked at the photo. After I heard each song, I created sheet music for each song, inspired by John Cage.

Each poster incorporates a line drawing from the original photograph, email conversations between me and the musicians, and the new sheet music that describes how the music sounds. I guess the next step would be to have someone new try to play the song from the sheet music.

I’m sure if someone tried to play this song from the sheet music it would sound absolutely nothing like the original piece, but it’d be fun to hear.

What’s most mindblowing to me about this whole experience in retrospect is that a quick five years later, Angie – who I barely knew at the time – is now married to my longtime friend Darin Ficorelli, and together they are parents of a baby girl. Time does some crazy awesome things.

Best Not Believe That It’s Easy

Friday, May 28th, 2010

I don’t think anyone in the Drinking Problem would recognize that title, even though we played this song at nearly all our shows. We always referred to it as “Spooky,” in reference to the Halloweeny riff at the beginning.

The song dates back to around early 2004 and was originally recorded spontaneously while it was being written. I felt like recording a song but didn’t have one to record. So I made up a simple chord progression and recorded it without much of a master plan. I did a second guitar track on top of that, then I made up a melody and recorded the vocals with some quickie lyrics, topping it off with tambourine. In total it took less than an hour, after which Gene arrived and picked me up for some Singles tour. I came back a couple weeks later and thought it’d be good to have hits on the pre-chorus so I added cymbal crashes. Here is that original demo:

Dave Lawson – “Best Not Believe That It’s Easy” (bedroom demo)

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Eventually when the Drinking Problem started playing, Eddie and I used the band as an excuse to let some B-grade tunes out into the world. We recorded our first batch of songs at John Krohn’s and he released a 45 of that material, but after that we learned a full album’s worth of songs which were never released (a few are now played by the Sights). We recorded some demos, but it seemed that every time Eddie, Jeremy and I got together for demos we were all hung over, unmotivated, and – after the first hour – full of Little Caesars pizza and ready for a nap. Nonetheless, a few passable recordings were salvaged from these sloppy sessions, this song being one of them. The lineup: Jeremy on drums, Eddie on multiple guitar overdubs and backup vocals, Korin on organ and backups, me playing bass and singing.

The Drinking Problem – Best Not Believe That It’s Easy (demo)

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Michigan For Life

Monday, May 17th, 2010

This song was recorded back in 2006 for the inaugural issue of Spoke Magazine, a themed DIY arts publication put together by Annette Janik. The first issue was about Michigan, and I wrote this song specifically for the CD that came with it. I have a long standing policy to try and accept all themed compilation requests purely as an exercise. (Examples: The Ypsilanti song, the 426 Monster Protest song, both Pop Project candy songs.) The Spoke website, which once hosted this song, is no longer online, so I figured it was worth reposting. [Bonus fact: Will Yates also wrote a song for this compilation, called “Everybody’s Moving Out of Michigan,” which was pretty fantastic.]

This is one of the only recordings made in my Royal Oak apartment on Gardenia St, which was a horrible place to live due the abundance of crotechty complaining senior citizens in the building. One neighbor called the cops on me for playing acoustic guitar on a Saturday afternoon. I didn’t stay there long.

This recording features my oldest friend Matt Balcer on mandolin. We met when we were literally in diapers. Matt now plays in the Irish band the Codgers. Here’s a picture of the two of us at one of my childhood birthday parties. I’m in the middle; Matt is on the right. Chuck E. Cheese sure looks like a creeper in this photo.

Besides Matt’s great contribution on mandolin, I played acoustic guitar, my first recorded banjo part, and various things with my hands such as a tambourine and my knees. I like this bedroom brewed recording, but sometimes I think the song would be a lot more fun if recorded by a live group in a setting where the neighbors aren’t speed dialing the cops with noise complaints. Perhaps one day.

Michigan For Life

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