So, as you know, the universe had a big bloody gaping bossa-nova-tune-about-the-fibonacci-series-shaped hole in it, so for the sake of humanity I most humbly filled it.
Since its composition, an imminent geek-pop song writing competition deadline was discovered, which spurred the song’s hurried 2-hour recording session, with the multi-talented and accommodating musical genius, Bridget – more known for her phenomenal eclectic guitar skills than her (equally impressive) vocal work, she did a perfect job of capturing that Astrud Gilbertian vibe, and added some cool melodic and harmonic ideas.
[Did it win? Well not in the traditional sense, not even in a post-modern sense. Speaking completely without bitterness, the whole competition was entirely rigged and a conspiracy designed since the birth of David Icke to try and upset me. No mention of the self-self-referencing, the clever Phi-Phib-Phibona-Fibonacci line, the cute idiomatic harmony- NOTHING.]
***EDIT! The previous bracketed paragraph is an (unintentional) house of lies. I did in fact discover in my junk folder, a nice message explaining that despite the song’s brilliance, it was out-brillianted by others (you can hear the winning song at the end of this podcast) and maybe we can do something in the future. Although my comments here were intended to amuse and to poke fun at only myself, it’s not true that they didn’t respond – so that inaccuracy is hereby rectified.***
Still- as a phoenix– I rise above it all like David Blaine’s little trick when everyone has to line up behind him, and he uses that contraption to lift him a few inches. “Watch..”
Anyhow, I know YOU will get something out of it, because you’re one of the special chosen people who are smart and funny and brilliant, and have you been working out? – because I’m sorry if this is forward – but you ARE looking rather hot these days.
In the midst of the chaos, mania and staggering bolshiness of the World Cup is an instrument that is chaotic, manic and bolshy. The marmite of the horn family, the dreaded vuvuzela.
The vuvuzela (I prefer vuvuzilla), let’s face it, is a monstrous instrument. And those that say they like it, are actually enjoying the effect it induces in others rather than loving its intrinsic sound.
Why does it sound so horrendous? Well firstly, it is loud, a staggering 120dB(A) at the bell-end. Can you imagine having to stand right in front of that bell-end, while someone is blowing it hard?
But a trumpet is equally loud, but does not elicit such an eargag reflex, so what’s the problem?
Firstly, it produces only one note with any consistency, a B-flat (Bb3 just below middle-C on the piano, around 233Hz). Technically, monotonous. However there is a microtonal wobble on this note so that it actually wavers around 210-240Hz range, Actually I’ve heard, presumably in the mouth of a particularly exuberant bell-end, the pitch drop up to a perfect 4th below. (See figure 1)
Figure 1. A particularly pissy vivuzela caught fucking around the 233Hz mark. Note its untrustworthy slow glides and sudden pitch disruptions. Bastard.
This, en-masse, contributes to the siren-like, ominous swarming drone, however the fluctuating pitch is not where the irritation lies.The big problem, my bell-end blowing friend, is the overtones.
What are overtones? Well… every sound is actually made up of not just a fundamental pitch but a series of higher pitches called overtones, that make up its particular tonal character, or timbre. (The only sound with only a fundamental with no overtones is the sine wave, that pure test-tone sound, to which a tuning fork comes close to emulating)
Some overtones are harmonic, they exist at regular frequency intervals to the fundamental. Like 2/1, 3/2. 4/1, 5/2 etc. These make up ‘musical’ intervals above the fundamental pitch like octaves, fifths, major 3rds and so on. Musical instruments that are pitched tend to possess mainly harmonic overtones.
Overtones that have no simple relationship to the fundamental are non-harmonic and contribute to a noisy timbre. A crash cymbal for example, has a smear of close intervals heading up to the top of our hearing range. The most non-harmonic, or noisiest sound is white noise, which is like a random waveform containing all overtones at random amplitudes. Think the sound of constant static, or in nature, a noisy seashore.
Actually musical instruments contain a complex, dynamic combination of overtones. A piano for example has a smattering of non-harmonic overtones at the initial ‘click’ but quickly settles into a regular harmonic pattern. A violin has beautifully regular overtones heading up into the stratosphere, mixed with a bunch of crazily chaotic non-harmonic high overtones.
The vuvuzela, however is an odd frog. It has a simple and regular pattern of overtones but they don’t match harmonic overtones. So it masquerades as a ‘musical’ instrument but is actually noisy, without the decency of being part of the percussion family (a highly respected family, incidentally, despite you know, the rumours) So what you get is the impression of musicality but the effect of irritation. (Figure 2) It’s like false advertising. We are trained to expect a musical timbre when you hear regular intervals but we get is the death-knell rasp of 10,000 kazoos in a giant blender.
Figure 2. Look at those sneaky regular intervals, pretending to be harmonic. Bloody Charlatans. And look how fucking high they go.
So what good is the vuvuzela other than giving a clear “Hey look at me blowing my bell-end!” message. Can it be used musically? Well I leave you with some half-hearted attempts to depict a parallel musical universe where the vuvuzela holds equal esteem to the violin, piano, cello, trumpet and human voice. Enjoy.
The dust, and glitter, have settled on the saccharin post-ironic campfest that is Eurovision.
I’ve witnessed the spectacle a number of years, find it quite enjoyable, and admire some of the songs and flamboyance. However there is this amazing middle-ground of songs between the quite good and deliciously terrible. A luke-warm competence of song that is just utterly ok, which I find fascinating. How, and why do these songs jump all the hurdles to make it to the final? The answer? They are perfectly accessible and completely musically unchallenging. Not bad at all, not good at all, not anything at all.
Would you like to write one of these super-mega-normal bet-hedging epic mediocrities?
Here are the rules:
1) Sing in barely discernible English. Everyone loves English right? No need to alienate people with your mother tongue. Pronounce words phonetically so any semblance of sincerity is removed.
2) Make the lyrics perfectly intelligible but mean nothing. Essential words: Love, heart, sing, dance, night, hear, feel, eyes, look, boy, girl, kiss, forever, one, last, day.
The actual ordering of the words is unimportant, just so long as the basic sentence structure is superficially correct. Repeat one word a little too much, and use rhetorical or nonsensical questions, like an online translation of a teenager’s facebook status.
“Look into my eyes, Do you hear them cry? Do you see my heart sing?
Listen to my heart, can you feel my love? Do you hear my heart sing?
Is it just one night? Don’t you hold me tight? Can you feel my loving?
You are just a boy, I am just a girl, don’t you know I’m loving?”
When the lyrics run out, las, dums and doos may be substituted freely.
3) Include a veneer of ‘world music’ (relationship to your country not essential) This means percussion, flamenco rasgueados, mandolins, bodrum or washboard etc. AT NO TIME should the presence of these instruments infuse the music with any authenticity.
4) When it comes to the rhythm think BLAND. 4/4 is essential and a tempo comfortably between 105 and 135bpm. Despite the presence of ‘ethnicity’ (see 3), rhythmic patterns should stay resolutely unfunky and must be underpinned with a 4-on-the-floor techno kick drum just in case there are any remaining species still unaware of where the beat is.
5) Structurally, make the chorus indistinguishable from the verse (ie equally meh), and the verse not really different to the intro. Any solos should repeat the melody like you are bludgeoning the listener over the head with your simple melody, forcibly crushing a neural imprint into their auditory cortices. An intro or middle section or outro with a pad, piano & strings and the same melody is also advisable.
6) The scale. You have some choices here, but the safest, and thus recommended, is the natural minor or Aeolian scale. (C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C) This has the advantage of having the veneer of sophistication but also being completely accessible. There are no awkward augmented 2nds, no characteristically quirky modal notes, no notes changed depending on harmonic context, and a tonic bass-line is all that’s needed. The pinnacle of excitement is the minor 6th which should only be used with epic showmanship and harmonic support.
7) The melody should be very, very short and memorable like the pain of a recently stubbed toe. Here’s the trick. Short phrase, repeat short phrase and then short phrase again ending slightly differently. Add your lyrics and you’re done. Thus:
Note: very little syncopation, and no chromatic notes. The ‘hook’ starts and ends on the root so as not to disorientate the listener. The 3rd dramatic phrase starts on the root but ends of the 5th which is about as obvious as you can be in the absence of a sledgehammer. Avoid any temptation to harmonize the melody with your clever elitist chords. The I, IV & V, (even over a tonic pedal is all they need), anything else is showing off. Notice also how the V chord avoids any complications with the B-natural, this isn’t bloody music college.
8) Despite the presence of our ‘ethnic’ elements, instrumentation & vibe must remain early 90s Eurotechno. Start with an ethereal pad as the singer is in the illuminated windtunnel then let rip with a Vaseline-in-the ear techno beat. Don’t leave anything to the listener’s imagination. Give every beat and repeat the melody a lot. When you think you’ve done it too much, do it again, or 2/3 into the tune modulate up a minor 3rd, but that’s only if you think you might win.Put melodies in parallel octaves and fifths, use harmonies sparingly and with deep suspicion. Your mantra should be dramatic nothing.
So following these basic rules, after 86mins of production, we reach the following results, it’s just a 2 minute blast, but that’s all you need and want.
Note the incongruous and tasteless blend of off-the-shelf 3-layer techno, derivative ‘Bulgarian’ rhythm, excruciating rap, soft-metal, crudely auto-tuned out of tune singing and Turkish Oud. A real mullet, committee camel a Frankenstein monster of a track. And yet I think you’ll agree Listen to My Heart(Just One Night) (by Lårs & Marise) stands a good chance of making it past the semi-finals, and even scraping a few points in the final. It is perfectly okay.
1. Print out the note-sheet below. Make note of how many cards each individual is dealt in the lowest row. When each of these is shown to you. or deduced, write them next to each number. Much can be deduced from what items each player hunches throughout the game so keep this section updated.
2. Down the left hand-edge of the ‘Me’ column tick off the cards you hold to eliminate them from your search.
3. When you are shown a card, tick it off in the left hand column of that player and add it it to the lowest row.
4. When you show someone a card make a note in the right hand side of that player’s column in the relevant item row. Don’t show any more cards than you need to to each player, keep the punters guessing.
5. Occasionally you can deduce what cards other players hold – by when they are forced to show a card to a hunch – mark these in the appropriate cell of the table & lowest row. In which case..
6. …you can deduce what other players have *seen from other people’s hands*. Mark these as appropriate.
7. You may want to mark which cards other players DO NOT have (with a ‘o’) when a hunch sweeps through them. This will help fine-tune your hunches.
Advanced/Extra-nerdy tips (extra A4 required)
1. Make a note of every group of items that each player hunches. If you know the player holds 2 of the 3 items, you can assume that they don’t hold the third. Mark with a o? in the appropriate cell.
2. For each hunch called, quickly check against that same players precious hunches & current deduced hand. It may be possible to deduce what card they are hunting, and therefore don’t possess. If another player shows them a card, you know what the card is & who has it. If no-one shows them a card you know it is among the guilty.
3. Some of the above tips are definite, hardline logic. Others make some presumptions about others’ behaviour. Ineptitude, drunkenness & canny deception will add error bars to your sleuthing. Be aware of what you know – & what you are presuming. Your final accusation will have to balance these two based on your rivals’ progress.