Songs

Hammer Frost

“Hammer Frost” – Listen:


Album Art By Word To Flesh: Hammer Frost

This was written around a mute pedal. The pedal, when depressed half-way, only dampened the lower register.

For the first A sections the left-hand ostinato stays in the submerged register; but then it crosses up and out of the lower register during the end of the B section. Once the C section kicks in, I don’t think the mute pedal is used until the very last notes.

Most of the harmony is F Dorian, though the B section goes to F Natural Minor briefly.

Sheet music by Word To Flesh: Hammer Frost. Key of F minor. Piano instrumental. Sheet music by Word To Flesh: Hammer Frost. Key of F minor. Piano instrumental. Sheet music by Word To Flesh: Hammer Frost. Key of F minor. Piano instrumental.

In A Row Boat With You (Instrumental)

“In A Row Boat With You” – listen:

Album Art By Word To Flesh: In a Row Boat With You

Written for a client that wanted a mellow unz-unz-unzy house feel, I was happy that the direction went towards the guitars being up front in the mix.

This track was made for a video that had late visual changes (locked picture is usually still a couple revisions away from being locked :), and in order to make the music work with the adjusted visuals, I dropped a beat near the midsection — there are some reverse cymbals that signal this change, and then you hear beat 4 of a measure turn into beat 1 of the next.

Playing the music is way more fun than programming it. Synths don’t bring me joy. I’m best setup for tracking guitars, so I’m gonna remain guitar-centric in my recording approach.

As a rule of thumb, I want to use virtual instruments mainly as texture under live-tracked instruments.

It’s fun to interpret keyboard-based songs on guitar–the end destination is always surprising.

Here’s the initial idea at the rhodes:

Sheet music by Word To Flesh: In A Row Boat With You. Key of Ab

Donaji’s drawn lyrics of the tune:

Drawn Lyrics By Donaji Mejia: In A Rowboat With You


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The Be-Attitude Chorale

“The Be-Attitude Chorale” – listen:

Album Art By Word To Flesh: The Be-Attitude Chorale Be provocative Be kind Be loving Be giving Be spiteful

4-Part a capella, with brother Lance doubling the top three parts. I had a cold when we recorded this, so my bass part is more resonant than it would have been on a healthy day.

Don’t remember the context, but this wordplay was a result of thinking on the Beatitudes found in Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount.

At the piano my hands fell on a stack of perfect 5ths. The approach to harmony starts in the key of G Major, but quickly twists elsewhere, resting in the land of E Major.

Here’s the piano voice memo demo:

Sheet music by Word To Flesh: The Be-Attitude. Be provocative Be kind Be loving Be giving Be spiteful

Lady Donaji’s hand drawn lyrics:

Drawn Lyrics By Donaji Mejia: "The Be-Attitude Chorale"

Be provocative
Be kind
Be loving
Be giving
Be spiteful


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Which Will – Nick Drake Cover

“Which Will” – listen:

Album Art By Word To Flesh: Which Will (Nick Drake cover) Which will you go for? Which will you love? Which will you choose from From the stars above? Which will you answer? Which will you call? Which will you take for For your one and all? And tell me now Which will you love the best? Which do you dance for? Which makes you shine? Which will you choose now If you won't choose mine? Which will you hope for? Which can it be? Which will you take now If you won't take me? And tell now Which will you love the best?

Recorded in 2005, in the small hours of the night.

Not too long ago I heard someone ask, “what’s your favorite Nick Drake song?” I think my answer to that is, his album Pink Moon is my favorite song. It takes just under 30 minutes to listen to the whole of Pink Moon, and by the time it ends, I want to repeat it all. Like an endless song cycle. It’s all very bleak and beautiful, removed and detached, intimate. And because the arrangements are stripped down to voice and guitar, there’s nothing to cloud up the song.

“Which Will” and the rest of the songs on Pink Moon share a strength in avoiding technical excess. Give me the naked song.

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Protect Your Creative Energies

“Protect Your Creative Energies” – listen:

Album Art By Word To Flesh: Protect Your Creative EnergiesProtect your creative energies Protect your creative energies Protect your creative energies Protect your creative energies Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Protect your creative energies Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Protect your creative energies Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Protect your creative energies Protect! Protect! Protect! Protect! Protect your creative energies

 

A collaboration with brother Lance. He plays drums, bangs tupperware and coffee cans, sings harmonies, and leads the upper register of the kazoo solo.

Here’s a highway demo of the melody’s inception:

Lance came up with the idea to add the percussive beat of the “Cup Game” (check out the link for some origin of the game and recent song incorporations). Here’s a voice memo demo of us fighting laughter to get through the song’s form:

Sheet music by Word To Flesh: Protect Your Creative Energy; triplet guitar

Donaji’s drawn lyric:

Drawn Lyrics By Donaji Mejia: "When I Hug You I'm Home" Protect your creative energies Protect your creative energies Protect your creative energies Protect your creative energies Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Protect your creative energies Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Protect your creative energies Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Oh, protect! Protect your creative energies Protect! Protect! Protect! Protect! Protect your creative energies

“Protect your creative energy.”

I’ve come across various writers saying this, but I believe I first heard it from Willo O’Brien, a heart-centered consultant.

I like ambitious challenges. I like people telling me I can’t do something — makes me want to do it more. But trying to do too much too quickly burns me out all the time.

To do the work, I need the energy, so I find inspiration in the phrase. Create consistently, protect your time.

At the moment, I’m barely getting a song posted every week (just finished mixing this coming week’s song, so I think I’m close to pulling ahead again). A month ago, I resolved to produce and post 3 songs a week, and then I realized 2 songs would be more realistic — but really, if I can keep posting 1 song a week, I’ll be happy with that.

Gotta keep the rhythm moving forward, 1 song at a time. Trying to set a pace, like a runner training for longer runs.

Avoid and manage energy sucks.

Turn the “Fear Of Missing Out” into the “Joy Of Missing Out.” To get things done — get ahead in the work.

Art by Word To Flesh: FOMO less than JOMO - Fear of Missing Out - Joy of Missing Out

 

Protect your creative energies
Protect your creative energies
Protect your creative energies
Protect your creative energies

Oh, protect! Oh, protect!
Oh, protect! Oh, protect!
Protect your creative energies

Oh, protect! Oh, protect!
Oh, protect! Oh, protect!
Protect your creative energies

Oh, protect! Oh, protect!
Oh, protect! Oh, protect!
Protect your creative energies

Protect!
Protect!
Protect!
Protect!

Protect your creative energies

Protect-Your-Creative_kazoo cartoon


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When I Hug You I’m Home

“When I Hug You I’m Home” – listen:

Album Art By Word To Flesh: "When I Hug You I'm Home" When I hug you I'm home When I hug you I'm home When I hug you I'm home When I hug you I'm home

My wife said this to me in an embrace. Had to memorialize it.

Recorded in 2010, Mike Hughes later tracked brushed drums, and David Glasser of Airshow Mastering put a glossy coat on the track.

This was the start of what I started calling songs in less than 20 words, then micro-songs, then small songs, then just, songs. Short songs. That’s all.

Music that does much with little inspires me. Frédéric Chopin’s 24 Preludes, and most any early composer’s preludes, are a great example. Great melodies and musical info packed into 30 seconds to a minute. I think I’d much rather hear a good 30 second melody paired with a decent lyric, with minimal accompaniment, than a 4-5 minute lackluster song dripping of over-production for a radio slot.

This little tune isn’t on the level of a Chopin prelude, but I want to hold myself to that kind of standard. A song can always dress up fancy in a perfected mix and production at a later date. Distilling an idea, crafting something musical and complete for the voice and an accompanying instrument: I think that’s a good goal to shoot for.

Hand drawn lyrics by Donaji Mejia:

Drawn Lyrics By Donaji Mejia: "When I Hug You I'm Home"

The Hook Is The Industry’s Tit

“The Hook Is The Industry’s Tit” – listen:

Album Art By Word To Flesh: The Hook Is The Industry's Tit

An alternate title might be, “Get To The Hook Quicker! 10 Ways To Win The Love Of All Ears So You Can Live It Up And Get On With Your Self.”

Saying the phrase out loud revealed that the consonant K’s and T’s were flat-out suggesting the beat and accents.

The Hook Industry Tit_sheet music 24jun12

Mike Hughes did mad drums on this track.

I tracked 40+ guitars to get a textured effect, starting around the mid-section when the harmony derails. It kinda sounds like guts ripping out of the guitar.

Listen to the initial a capella demo that served the basis of the rhythm and tempo:

And here’s the harmonic form coming out at the rhodes:

The Hook Industry Tit_sheet music 22feb14

It’s fun to document a song’s journey, so I’ll be contrasting early drafts with newly produced stuff when I can.

MP3’s of this song and the demos were sent out to subscribers in this newsletter here.

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Fire Up The Bilateral Brain And Draw

“Fire Up The Bilateral Brain And Draw” – listen:

Word To Flesh Album Art: Fire Up The Bilateral Brain and DrawLYRICS:

Fire up the bilateral brain and draw! Fire up the bilateral brain and draw! Fire up the bilateral brain and draw! Fire up the bilateral brain and draw! Fire up the bilateral brain and draw! Fire up the bilateral brain and draw! Draw!

An anthem for tapping the hemispheres through drawing.

This was recorded in 2011. I recently remixed it and tracked extra drums by my brother Lance.

And here’s the chicken scratch form:

Sheet music by Word To Flesh: "Fire Up The Bilateral Brain And Draw"

From the site DrawingWriting.com:

Only one thing is certain – that written language of children develops in this fashion, shifting from drawings of things to drawings of words.

–Lev Vygotsky, “The Prehistory of Writing,” an essay, c. 1930 in The Mind in Society, 1978.

Art by Word To Flesh: 1982 Ryan Houck Self-Portrait

My wife, Donaji, is a great encouragement, and she has started making fantastic handwritten images of my lyrics. She’ll be opening a shop for these, but in the meantime, you can check out some of her designs on Instagram. Here’s the one she did for “Bilateral Brain”:

Donaji Mejia Album Art: "Fire Up The Bilateral Brain and Draw"

High-quality MP3’s of this song and “We’re On Vacation” were sent out to subscribers in this newsletter here.

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We’re On Vacation

“We’re On Vacation” – listen:

Word To Flesh Album Art: We're On Vacation. Please free to stop on by and rob our house.

This singalong folk-song was written on a road trip to Los Angeles, and this recording was done at the start of 2011.

I was inspired by all the sharing of vacations on Facebook and watching people post their every public stop on Foursquare.

My wife added her harmony sweetness at the middle of the song when it modulates.

David Glasser, of Air Show Mastering, added a nice sheen to the track.

Here is the original artwork from 2011:

Album Art By Word To Flesh: "We're On Vacation"

And here’s the chicken scratch song form:

Sheet music by Word To Flesh: We're On Vacation

 

My wife, Donaji, is a great encouragement, and she has started making fantastic handwritten images of my lyrics. She’ll be opening a shop for these, but in the meantime, you can check out some of her designs on Instagram. Here’s the one she did for “We’re On Vacation”:

Donaji Mejia Album Art: "We're On Vacation"

High-quality MP3’s of this song and “Fire Up The Bilateral Brain and Draw” were sent out to subscribers in this newsletter here.

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-20:9

This was written and recorded in the winter of 2003.

Poetry.com used to have a daily challenge to create a poem in twenty words or less. Each day, they provided a new scramble of words to use.

I created a dozen or so of these, but this was the only one I turned into song.

They spine production on her cotton feathers
For lack-light squares stripe by
They twine almanac fire
With theirs

Lyrically, it wasn’t the best of the attempts, but I liked the images. It inspired me to approach the music from a slant.

Word To Flesh Score: Harmonic basis for a song in less than 20 words.

 

I experimented with B Major and B minor chord arpeggiations, also dropping the patterns down a half-step to Bb. I liked that this created an uncertain key center, and it wasn’t obvious if the tune should be Major or minor.

From there, a scale was constructed from the chord tones, and an extra Ab was added because the melody called for it.

Small Songs

Working within a restraint, at least lyrically, can help with approaching songwriting differently. It can be a way to try and make the most out of little.

In 2011, I limited myself to writing songs in 20 words or less, and sometimes it was tough to stay under that word count. That was fun for a season and resulted in many fun short, small songs.

They’re not trying to make rank in the Tower Of Song, but they have a place there.

Unsubscribing Feels So Good

An unsubscribe promo to prompt people to subscribe to the WTF newsletter— or, something.

Visual stuff is primitive here. Probably gonna change my approach to videos in the future. Still, this was fun.

Inspired by this tweet by @rachaelmaddux: ♫ Unsubscribin’ and it feels so good ♫, which I saw because Mr. @austinkleon retweeted it last week.

I loved the tweet so much I started singing it, then set the melody to some chords, and then recorded it.

This morning, I checked out Rachael’s writing on Tumblr and discovered that the tweet fits into a larger story about her career writing about music. Check out her post here.

Unsubscribing Feels So Good sheet music