Robert (gurdonark) wrote,
Robert
gurdonark

Thank God for Memphis



At the Love Field magazine shop, just prior to catching the plane to Houston this dawntime, I picked up Harper's magazine and The Atlantic annual fiction issue. Harper's had the best short story of the group, a wonderful piece by Alice Munro about a cellist and the way her life worked out, with a great mother/daughter mcguffin to propel the story. Some of the Atlantic short stories were quite good, but my eye was most caught by the piece on the top MFA programs and the uproar at Clemson over a visiting author. The Giuliani attack piece in Harper's failed to impress, as I wondered, as I often do, why a nuanced position paper cannot be written with a bit more balance, particularly when a balanced viewpoint might be more persuasive as to why not to elect Mr. Giuiliani president.

I arrived sufficiently early in Houston that I could take a Super Shuttle rather than a cab or rental car, so I rode downtown with another passenger. She was a young woman in her late 20s or early 30s, a cancer survivor whose hair was gone, but who radiated somehow that she was vibrant and alive. I did not hear her speak, so I could not gauge her accent, but she had the indefinable something that sometimes identifies Englishwomen even without words. Of course, I am not infallible in such guesses, and she may well have been from Palestine, Texas, Paris, Texas, or Dublin, Texas. The Shuttle dropped her off at one of the residence hotels for the massive MD Anderson Cancer Center, and as she smiled and tipped the driver I noticed what a nice effect her large pearl earrings and hairless head made. I respect people who face their challenges un-self-consciously, with grit and a smile.

My wife and I dined on sushi and kimchee tonight. I find this week that I gorge on fresh fruit, which I hope is a sign of a healthy desire for vitamins and not merely an overeating mechanism.

I've been working on recording music lately in which I actually sing, inspired by the website songifight.org. This material is far from my best work, as I am still trying to figure out how best to record the vocals and how best to mix the recording to advantage. After the false starts of my first few songfight songs, though, my song "Anomaly" finally appealed to me. It's an odd little novelty song, and both the vocals and the lyrics are quite flawed. But I like the melodies, and will probably re-use them in a video.

People at songfight have been kinder about last week's song, "anomaly", than my other songs there. Sadly, the version they posted was flawed, and artificially cuts out too early--I avoid doing this in my own work, so I was disappointed that some thought it was my flaw and not the site's. I am not winning any medals for the song, and yet people don't hate it. I thought about giving songfight a rest for a few weeks. I am pretty aware that I do better with instrumental electronica than with trying to write pop songs, particularly as my sense of pop melody and percussion inevitably leads me into off-kilter novelty songs.

Then I read that this week's song title is "Thank God for Memphis". Of course, that changed everything. I am grateful for Memphis, and had to compose a song of praise. I had hoped for something vaguely The Cate Brothers meets Booker T at Stax, but it came out weirder than that.

I rarely go to Memphis, and never spend much time there when I do go, but it always feels like home to me, somehow. So it was the work of ninety minutes to write and sing a song. This time I sang in dialect. I don't have this much accent in real life, but I find it rather easy to sing with an Arkansas accent prominently on display. I thought of my early teenage favorites, Black Oak Arkansas, put on my best Jim "dandy" Mangrum homage, and pitched in.

I'm [probably insufficiently] sensitive to inflicting too much creative material on journal readers, but I'll post this one because the songs are to me amusing. Songifight has the admirable policy of discouraging people from telling their friends to "go vote for me", so I'd rather post them here than send people to the site.

Both songs were recorded on the 25 dollar shareware synthesizer Sawcutter 2. I used a dollar store xylophone as the prinicipal sample for "Anomaly" and a nose flute sample as the melody line for "Thank God for Memphis".

So in all their weird glory, and fully aware of my flaws in singing and recording my own voice, I'll offer "Anomaly" and "Thank God for Memphis":




In other news, I am a bit frustrated because I want to remix a song to fit an a capella by Calender Girl, and thus far my mixing skills have not proven up to the task. I can't hear the pitch well enough to match a melody in. That's too bad, because I love her a capella for "July".

She's really cool--she's a young Brit singer who posts an a capella each month, and encourages remixing. The goal is that she will have an album of 12 songs at the end. I have no illusions that I could be one of the 12, but I'd like to remix her because her songs show a lot of heart and verve. I will figure out a way to do it, one way or another.
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