Thursday, April 9, 2009

new track: 'Making the Grade (A Robot's Lament)'

Once again, my songwriting class prompted me - out of necessity - to take an old song idea (this one from last summer) and finish it up.  Well, finish it enough to turn it in.

For this project, we had to collaborate.  Our professor - who always stresses the fact that in the music business, writing music by one's self is the exception rather than the rule - assigned us into groups of 2-3 people.  Now, up front, this filled me with terror.  Let's just say that I would rather stuff angry hornets under my eyelids than collaborate with some of the people from this class.  Most of them are decent songwriters and cool people, but there are a handful that I just can not stand.  That said, there were several times while he was naming off groups, that my bowels froze in fear of a painfully forced collaboration of contradictory styles and artistic philosophies.

I was pretty much exhausted by the end, because my group was named last.  I lucked out and got put with my good buddy Sage Min.  He's a fantastic musician, has a great ear for chords, plays the keys like a maniac and we have similar tastes in music.  When we got together to collaborate, we had lots of ideas but weren't sure which direction to go.  In a moment of goofing off, I showed him a track I had started last summer which I'd decided needed to go back into the oven for a while.  Like I said in my last post, this is par for the course for me.  My typical progression happened here as well.

Sage liked it and decided to help me finish it off.  The chords were kind of chunky and disconnected, and Sage helped me to smooth them out and transition more nicely.  Also, the song didn't have a bridge.  I came up with the first chord, and Sage basically finished it off.  Since I haven't reinstalled all my old synthesizer plugins yet, we actually took slices of the audio from the bass line from the verses and re-sequenced and re-pitched them to create a bassline for the bridge that matched the rest of the song.  Sage also laid down a perfect keyboard solo with which to end the song.

I wrote the lyrics for the verses last summer, and couldn't come up with lyrics for the bridge until I this project.  The impetus for the song was that I was newly married and I felt like I wasn't very good at it.  I loved my wife so much and I wanted to do everything perfectly for her, but I was learning about shortcomings and inadequacies that I never even knew I had.  Not because she was pointing them out - certainly do not take it that way - but because I was devoted to her and wanted desperately to be everything she'd ever need.

I often think in metaphors, because I'm usually thinking of ways to phrase my thoughts in such a way that they'd be convincing if pressed to defend them.  I guess that's what I get from growing up with a brilliant older brother who is a master of rhetoric and argumentation.  Or maybe it's because about 5 or 6 years ago, I realized that lyrics were far more important than I had previously given them credit for, and that since I was terrible at writing them, I should start working on the art of lyricism.  I think it's about six of one and a half-dozen of the other.  But anyway, the metaphor that came into my mind as a result of the newest addition to the pantheon of my shortcomings, was that of a machine that wasn't very good at doing the the main thing it was built to do.  I thought it a simultaneously amusing and sad thought and began considering how that machine would feel if it could feel.

The result of my musings on that silly idea are the lyrics to this song.  I realized that the verses made it appear that my marriage generally saddens me, which couldn't be further from the truth.  I've never been happier in my life.  So, since the bridge of a song usually represents a shift in thinking or some sort of catharsis, I used it as a vehicle to demonstrate the happy meliorism that my original chain of thought eventually led me to.

Now, after being a blowhard for several paragraphs, I'll let you listen to it. The lyrics are below.

Verse 1:
I'd like to hold her hand
but sadly, I don't have one
I've come so wrongfully equipped.
All my components were
just makeshift substitutions
and when she ordered, I was shipped.

Verse 2:
I know the purpose in my blueprint
was to love her
and all specifics that entailed.
I came with all the right intentions
but was missing
the knowledge needed not to fail.

Not everything that serves our purposes
and needs is tailor made
and even less-than-perfect tools
can even prove to make the grade.

Oftentimes we find that we prefer
a move we wouldn't normally play
even with things we think that we are certain
that we want another way.


  1. The lyrics warm my heart. And I love the song. *sigh*

  2. Sounds good Jake! I remember having the exact same gut-wrenching fear last year when I was in that class... but I too was blessed to avoid working with my arch nemesis, who shall not be named here.

    you rock.