Something Special

I won't even bother to apologize for taking so long to post this time. I've been so busy with my Montessori studies that monthly posts are going to be about the norm. Apart from my studies, I've been working on the demo for the songs. What's interesting about that is that the songs keep evolving. As I record them, I change parts and fix ham fisted harmonies and whatnot. It's a big job, so you'll have to bear with me. You can imagine how little dating I've been doing, much to the chagrin of the ladies of the world. You would think talking shop like this would get me so many ladies.

Anyway, the next song in the play, Something Special, is, well, special to me because it was one of the first songs I came up with for the play. I thought of it while I was walking up SE 12th Avenue in Portland toward home one afternoon. I think it was the very same afternoon I'd given some stupid girl that I liked my Paul Simon songbook with my phone number in it. (She never called me. And she still has my book! Stupid girl.) I started dancing around and pantomiming because I didn't have anything to record with and no writing implements. But I needed to remember my idea, so I sang it over and over again until I got home and then I jotted it down. Because it was the first song I came up with, and because I noticed a lot of distinct features in the melody, I used this song to generate all of the musical material for the rest of the play. Even the songs that I culled from other sources will eventually contain material from this song once I flesh out the piano score. That means that before I wrote any of the other songs, I first analyzed this one to death. In other words, I broke down the melody into as many little motives as I could find and wrote each little motive out backwards (Retrograde), Inverted (Inversion), and backwards inverted (Retrograde Inversion). Then I combined those melodic snippets in different ways to create the melodies, harmony lines, and accompaniments for the other songs. If you look closely at subsequent lead sheets, you'll see the same little motives popping up in all the songs. For example, the little eighth note step up-down-up-down on the words "tonight we're showing" is a motive I use often throughout the play. Another one is the eighth rest motive on the lyric "something special!" I used rhythmic motives too, such as the eighth, quarter, eighth rhythm on "welcome, tonight".

In terms of the scene, the opening number melds seamlessly into this song. Our protagonist—and I use the term protagonist here in the way Lajos Egri uses it in his book The Art of Dramatic Writing. According to Egri, the protagonist is not the hero, rather he's the character who forces the conflict. Often, the protagonist is the villain. The antagonist, according to Egri, is the one who opposes the protagonist, often the hero. In Othello, for example, Iago is the protagonist and Othello is the antagonist, rather than the other way around—Nicholas comes on and introduces himself. As he appears saying "Welcome!" a whole host of hipsters, gallery goers, and high society jet setters flood into the art gallery where he is curating his brother's art show. This is a classic "I want" song. Nicholas is welcoming everyone to his brother's highly successful gallery opening. Of course, none of it is actually happening, because in fact the opening has been a complete failure and no one has come.

A word about the form of the song: The overall form is ABA'. The first A, in which Nicholas welcomes everyone to the gallery is ABAC. The middle section, where Nicholas sings about himself, is an AABA form, the B section being a slow contrast to the As. The the third section is an incomplete version of the first form, we only hear one A, and then the music changes to a darker key, and Nicholas sings about how it's all a dream as everyone files out and leaves him all alone. To make the darker feel, I modulated from the key of G down a half step to G-flat. The final ending I came up with was not the original ending. Originally I wrote a ii-V-I cadence in Gb, but a friend of mine pointed out that it should sound darker. She sang it how she heard it, and all she did was step down a half-step on the last word, "dream", and it sounded really dark and sad. So I changed the final chords to accommodate that cool, dark half-step. The only way to do it was to effect a deceptive cadence in Eb major. So, by putting an F in the bass of the GbM7 chord in measure 87, I was able to lead the bass down in half steps (foreshadowing the final half-step in the melody) and arrive at an Eb7 chord, which then leads nicely into Bb7, and viola: the last chord of the song is a Cm7. Very dark indeed! Of course it wasn't as easy as that (gulp). I wrestled with many many different endings for a few days until I came up with that one. I like that the song ends in a different key than it started in, because the character is in a different place by the end of the song and the music should reflect that.

Anyway, that's enough nerdiness for one evening. Here is the lead sheet if you want to geek out yourself. I have to get back to my beautiful French/Russian wife, who speaks English with a Manchester lilt, who's just finished working in her studio and is waiting for me. Ah, if only that weren't all a dream. More later.