Monday, June 25, 2012

A Blind Beginning - Lyrics, Composition, Gear...The Lowdown



“A Blind Beginning” is the 6th track on Within a Reverie and has much to discuss from its seemingly stream-of-consciousness arrangement, ballad-esque introductory lyrics, and harmonic play, to its wide range of dynamics, variety of playing techniques, and quasi-symbolism. That being said, let’s get down to it!

Lyrics:

So the story goes that there was a group of friends
Who wanted to create

If one follows the lyrics, it’s relatively easy to tell that they tell the beginning of a story. What you are hearing, however, concerns something a little more concrete than the at-times ambiguous introduction lets on. In fact, the song is literally about the recording project that it is a part of.

So they set out blindly for journey’s end unknown
To find some truth, simple or profound
They set out blindly…

The title refers not only to the fact that this album is the first for us, a “beginning,” but also to the lack of direction within which our group worked when we started crafting these songs so many years ago. And while, by the time we finally got into recording this album a second time, we had a bit more direction stylistically, the songs themselves stand as a testament to the diversity that manifests itself when one limits themselves to just “trying to write original music.” 

We put forth this declaration
This art will find manifestation
Trial, error, inspiration
One or varied destinations

We also attempted to lyrically capture both the intellectual stimulation of wholeheartedly deciding “to create” and the almost indescribable experience of putting all one has into the creative process and watching as that effort fails, meets, or surpasses one’s expectations.

At the precipice of beginning
Vision blind but mind’s eye grinning
Anticipation and trepidation
No words for these expectations

Additionally, one of the events in the song that I particularly enjoy and consider a “quasi-symbolism” of sorts, is the way the last line quoted above (“No words for these expectations”) announces the following lengthy instrumental passage. This is intentional, and the music afterward is intended to represent the ups and downs (and the excitement of both!) of the writing process when going off of just influence and intuition.

Since the song is literally about writing all the others, it might go without saying that this song was added to the recording project much later than the other tracks. It served as a way to both keep the project interesting for us (it is so difficult for musicians to keep playing the same songs over and over!), and to pay tribute to the process that brought it all to light.

I could go on forever about the lyrics as there are a few more talking points in these highly meaningful words, but the composition and production is just as rich in meaning, so let’s move on!

Composition:
“A Blind Beginning” is predominantly in 4/4 time, but has an intro that grooves in three-measure phrases, which lends it a solid, yet startling feel. Vocal lines that are not strictly diatonic make the intro even more out-there in one sense, but, to me, give it a “fairy tale” feel. This only serves to heighten the story-telling mode that the third-person narrative voice establishes in the intro.

Shortly after the tune gets heavy, there is a switch from the third person narrator to a first person plural voice at 2:13. Compositionally, my first intention was to have a 3-part harmony, with each of the current Within a Reverie members taking a part, as in the second verse of our song “Romance, Meet Real.” After much experimentation, a three-part unison arrangement ended up being the most poignant, and I found that it 1) hit harder sonically, and 2) more successfully drove home the point of the lyrics at that point that sing about “doing something as a unified force.” AND we did this all without sounding like a Def Leppard or Bang Camaro gang vocal.

Now, as I stated in the discussion of lyrics above, this song contains numerous ties to the past, and in addition to lyrics, we’ve made many compositional references—and we are totally aware that they may remain on the esoteric level of an “inside joke,” despite being crafted in all seriousness.

There are traces of old compositions laced and interwoven all throughout “A Blind Beginning.” For example, the first heavy rhythm section of the song (1:44), where production suddenly cuts to a superior clarity, is from an old song of ours called “Change,” and the rhythm guitar riff from 2:45 to 3:14 is from an old acoustic composition of ours titled “The Other Side of Town.” The harmonized octaves on the guitars at 3:41 were lifted from a thrashy tune we used to play called “On the Loose” and the drum groove in the intro is reminiscent of one of our earliest compositions, “The Parting of Two Friends.”

The inclusion of these sections were done with the utmost attention to making them “work” in a new context, but also with the hope that they would lend a greater authenticity to the gesture that “A Blind Beginning” makes as a composition. It certainly works that way for us, but that is to be expected. For the listener with no background knowledge of the original music we used to play regularly, I hope that the fact that they were composed either concurrently or earlier than the music on this album solidifies the “sound” of what “early” Within a Reverie will be when we’ve ventured past our first few recording projects.

Of additional symbolic value is the cassette tape introduction and related production choices. Only a handful of old friends would recognize the audio snippets, but we deliberately used cassette sounds and old jam tapes from high-school as additional songs on the “tape” which begins this track. The cassette idea itself is merely used as homage to our early days when everything we did was on tape. THANK GOODNESS for computers!!

Fun Facts for Musicians and Audiophiles:

-Key: E minor

-Writing Credits: Dilley

-A tambourine, though subtle, was used in second half of solo section (from 3:16 to 3:31) which helped make the heaviness of the section into a deadly groove!

-“A Blind Beginning” is one of my favorite vocal performances by Joe Marx. The introduction alone shows what a versatile singer he can be, and when one compares this song with all of the others from the album, it is only more evident.

-Special Gear: We used an old-school Yamaha tape-deck to run the intro section of the song through multiple generations of cassette-wear. We then used tape-hiss, generously provided by our tape deck, to overlay on top of the intro of our song, to symbolically represent “just another” demo.  

Now, for your visual stimulation, here is Andy rehearsing the drum groove to the intro of "A Blind Beginning"!


Stay tuned for more SongTalk stuff in the future! Just to give you a preview, our next track upload will either be the epic “Believable Fiction” or the quirky “The Ivory Stepping Stone.”

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