Song inspiration: The Jungle – Calais

Here are a few photos of when I went to The Jungle refugee camp in Calais in September last year to help at the aid distribution centre & go on site to work with others such as CalAid and volunteers.

Some of the things I saw, people I met, and stories I heard will stay with me forever, and were very important to me when writing our assessment song ’33°30′. Particularly the living conditions, desperation and community we saw really stood out to me whilst there. The stories of some of the refugees we spoke to were something you would never wish upon anyone. The longing for identity and ‘home’ was so evident in the jungle. They’d lost their country, their family or friends and barely had any of their belongings left, if any.

ST2 – Melody Writing

Lyrics: Ophelia Neville

Vocals & Piano: Ophelia Neville

I was inspired for this melody task when I saw a poor fox that had died by a tree on a pavement whilst I was walking home. He was so beautiful and looked so peaceful yet contrasting with this was the blood on his stunning fur and the fact he was completely lifeless. I came home and started playing around on the piano playing what I felt a fox’s theme tune or soundtrack would be as he was running across a field.

I wanted something quite delicate and varying in feel of minor and major, but also something quite harsh as the fox had died. I remember watching Planet Earth 2 which had a clip of a fox. The fox was so curious and frantic and yet sometime suddenly stopped and paused turning it’s head or listening for food. I wanted to create those pauses with my melody sustaining one note on a word and also create the quick, more frantic movements with my piano playing.

In the chorus, I changed my chord progression to much more obvious sounding progression: where you would expect the chords to naturally go and the melody just fit in. The lyrics of the chorus are ‘Sleep well’ (i.e. saying how the fox has died) and so the culminating, resolving feel of the chorus melody fits well I think.

Lyrics:

Verse:  Oh little fox you ran away, to the place you’ve never known

Chorus: Sleep well now in the autumn, winter leaves, as the peaceful breeze moves over.

ST6 – 500 Word Synopsis

33°30

Performance group: Guy Daws, Lottie Scraton & Ophelia Neville

We met to discuss ideas for the topic of our song and Guy suggested writing about the refugee crisis. We decided to write from the point of view of one refugee on their journey and use our music to represent that journey in some way. After having visited The Jungle in Calais last year, I really wanted to get across the kind of imagery I saw through our lyrics & as a group we are all interested in raising awareness of the current refugee crisis.

The actual lyric writing for the song felt quite slow. This may be due to a lack of confidence within the group or different writing styles we might have. I would have liked to have had more constructive, healthy discussion with all our ideas so they could be the best thought out lyrics possible, not just 1st draft kind of lyrics: I was surprised as a lot of my ideas were taken on straight away when actually I knew they could be improved. I came up with some rough ideas for a full first verse and second verse which were taken on straight away, with the only changes being made to two lines at the end of the second verse. I struggled with this as I was hoping for a lot of feedback and other ideas that we could use to form a more well thought out lyric. The same happened again when I suggested the lyrics for the bridge.

In terms of the melody, it came after I was inspired by the Syrian national anthem. I thought we could start the song in quite a major fashion very similar to the anthem and gradually break it up emphasising the minor notes to represent the refugee becoming further and further away from their country and home. With the key of the song as D Major, we decided to start on the B Minor chord using the B as a pedal note throughout the song on the piano which emphasises the melancholy feel of the song.  The dissonance of the pedal note with the D chord again, creates an unnerving, eerie element to the song. Musically, we didn’t want to overcomplicate the song or make it too full: simplicity and space being key, as typically refugees may have lost family and friends and can be quite lonely. My piano playing (in the higher octave) would echo Lottie’s piano playing, whilst Guy’s electric with his reverb and delay pedals, an echo of our combined piano playing, would create layers and texture amongst the simplicity.

We decided on the structure for the song quite naturally whilst in a practise: a structure to naturally show the story of the refugee. We decided that any harmonies would come in on ‘home’ to represent the community and family that was at home but now has gone leaving the one lone voice. The overlapping of voices of the bridge & chorus towards the end represents the confusion a refugee may experience and the emotional conflict of missing home, searching for somewhere new and experiencing hardship.

Our song title ‘33°30’ is derived from the geographic coordinates of Damascus, Syria’s capital. The latitude coordinate is 33°30’36” N. To simplify we use 33°30.

Lyrics:

Verse 1

Once a beautiful mist settling on the hills,
Now clouds of smoke drowning the air,
Once a playful ground of children’s laughter,
Now a blanket of rubble

Verse 2

The pounding waves of conflict
(and) The crippling sounds of war
My ancient town is falling
Now its obsolete and poor

Chorus
All I have is a photograph
Of a distant past
Of the place that I called home
That I called home

Bridge:

I’m searching for a new place
Where I can start again

ST5 – The Cover Song

For this week’s task we had to research and decide on a cover that we would record in groups of 3 or more.

As a group we chose to cover King Harvests’s song ‘Dancing in the moonlight’ in the style of Ben Howard. The reason we chose this particular style is it’s quite opposite to the original which is very groovy and quite upbeat. The Toploader cover of ‘Dancing in the moonlight’ has been seen as an annoying throwaway pop song primarily and so we wanted to infuse it with a bit of Ben Howard-esque guitar’s, gloom and character.

We worked out that Guy & Dylan would be playing the guitar parts for the cover. Guy would be playing electric, hammering striking harmonics and embracing the effects of delay and reverb. And I suggested to Dylan that he could tune his guitar into the open tuning that Howard uses in a lot of his songs, so the sound of our cover would be quite similar.

We decided that Sarah would sing the vocals as she has quite a distinct breathy, smooth voice which we thought would suit the Ben Howard style. Ross would play bass & I would play keys.

We started by just playing through the song naturally how we would as a band. Going through the verses etc as normal. After we had done that, we wanted to start making it very distinctively different to the original and as much like Ben Howard as possible. We did this by emphasising the ‘Ben Howard features’ in the song for example, if Guy was hammering the electric a bit creating some harmonics, I would try to echo them a bit on the keys throughout the song as this is one of Ben Howard’s frequent elements to his music. We also wanted to really focus on the minor at the beginning which we did by Sarah changing the melody of the lyrics a bit – rather than following the original melody at the beginning which goes naturally into the G major note, she sang lower which emphasised the Am more creating this gloomy, more monotone sound.

We listened to some of Ben Howard’s song’s whilst creating this cover and we noticed how his verses differ from his choruses. There’s sometimes a bit more of a staccato feel to his choruses with the way the guitar is played or with a new drum rhythm or the introduction of drums for the first time in the song. We tried to incorporate this into our chorus by Matt  adding more fills into his drum rhythm and playing the snare and ride cymbal rather than the gentler closed high hat and ride that he was playing in the verse. Sarah’s vocal also sat in the groove the drums were creating rather than forcing the speed herself which made the vocals sound more Ben Howard-esque.

If we were to go back and change something, I would probably say we could really focus on the use of guitar’s more: by ramping up the reverb and swells on the electric and maybe having the bass a bit quieter as Ben Howard, although plays with a band, is primarily a solo singer/songwriter guitarist. In some of Ben Howard’s song’s also, the chorus is often quiet or has more space than the verses like in the first chorus of ‘I Forget Where We Were’. We could have gone the opposite way and created more of an atmospheric chorus leaving lots of space for just the vocals and guitar.

Vocals: Sarah Walker, Keys: Ophelia Neville, Bass: Ross Teal, Acoustic: Dylan Evans, Electric: Guy Dawes, Drums: Matt Yapp

Polyphonic Me Session 8 Logic Task: Sound Design 2

Sound design the following only using the factory patch:

A bass sound:
This should be in Mono, contain sub frequencies and benefit from timbre (filter, waveform) modulation.

A pad sound:
A rich, thick and slowly evolving pad sound useful for sustained chords and pedal notes.

A bell like keyboard sound:
Try to emulate a bell like sound, FM synthesis can help with this, use AMP release to emulate the natural decay of a bell sound.

A percussive keyboard sound:
A short percussive keyboard sound that can cut through the mix.

A lead sound:
An expressive lead sound that offers useful modulation, this should be in mono. The Sync synthesiser engine is a good starting point for the oscillators.

Compose a short section of music with your sounds, (1 minute max) try to make sure they contrast each other. You can also use MIDI FX and other sequencing techniques that develop parts and instrumentation.

This is my experimentation so far, but I plan to re-work it & create something I like a lot more.