News for the ‘music’ Category

Parody

Written several years ago–this one’s older than my children, actually–but with Into the Woods in movie theaters, it seemed worth digging out of the trunk…might have to record this one at some point…

Could I compose an original song?
Am I still able to?
Why have I chosen to fracture a fairy tale,
Maybe a fable, too?

Parody! Of a recognized style,
A pattern you capture with which to enrapture
A Sondheimophile!

I’ll write for the stage without going flat.
Or shall I diminish it?
Why am I left contemplating this hat?
Why can’t I finish it? A-a-a-a-augh…

Parody! Which exhibits your wits
(bits by bits)
And you put it together with
(myth by myth)
Such unlikely couplets.
(groan)
Parody! Far more silly than this,
(with its faults)
Filching a threnody, filking the melody with artifice.
(do I hear a waltz?)

If I could hope to infuse
Ev’ry line with confusing, internally rhyming,
Sublimely amusing connections of words,
I’d be ev’rything Broadway could wish for–
Then why no–
Do I know?
Jujamcyn’s gone mad.
I know something of madness,
From the moment I open their letter and think it gets better,
But it’s a rejection of stylish confection, a-hahahahahaHAHAHAHA

Parody! Mockery! Though
Bon mots flow readily,
Unless you’re Alessandrini,
You’re unlikely to work steadily…

Parody!
(keep it short!)
Maybe more curt…than vile…
I may be here awhile…

Posted: February 6th, 2015
Categories: music, parody, songwriting
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One moment to feel your warmth.

This is marketing artwork from Te Dua, a play by Jennifer Wills from a true story developed by Adale O’Brien, which won the Forth Freedom Playwriting Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in 2001. It’s the true story of two people on different sides of the conflict in Sarajevo, told (in this draft) with imagery from board games and strategy games. I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s a tragedy in the end. It’s a fine play, and I hope we get to see how it’s developed since the Hanover production.

Te Dua

Each of these images anchored their own posters, with all three appearing on the program covers.

I’m going to have to revisit this post at a later date, because I don’t have the translations handy. But I managed to translate several phrases, some from the play directly, some thematically in line with the play, and used them as the propaganda slogans in the artwork. (I’ll also include a larger version of the artwork as well…)

For the imagery itself, I knew from the first reading that the artwork would be Soviet-style propaganda art. I knew some already, researched more, sparking to the work of artists like Valentina Kulagina, Litvak, the Stenberg brothers, and particularly the works of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Alexander Rodchenko. (These links are all from the A Soviet Poster A Day blog, which is inactive. It didn’t exist when I was doing my initial research.)

The top image, with Uncle Moneybags (or whatever they’re calling him these days), plays with the board game themes in the script, using Monopoly as a dual-edged reference to Communist Russia. The bottom image, with the fist, is more directly inspired by some actual posters. Both of these were hand-drawn.

The central image, which was also the primary artwork, is a collage of drawn elements, typography and photography, featuring the lead actors from the production.

As good as the show was, and as much as people liked the artwork, the best part of the experience for me was when we managed to get copies of the artwork to the actual soldier whose story inspired the play. He was stunned at the wording in the posters–and stunned that it was translated properly–but knew immediately what original artwork had inspired which element in each poster. He was amazed that anyone here in southern Indiana knew Mayakovsky or would design art in his and Rodchenko’s styles. That he loved the art meant a lot.

If you’d like to set the mood, listen to Vrbana Bridge by Jill Sobule (at Amazon or iTunes). This is the song that essentially opened the show, a similarly tragic story in the same setting.

To close the show, the theatre commissioned an original song by Tamara Dearing, of whom you’ve heard a little on this blog already. (If you haven’t, go check out Suo Gan.) She recorded two versions, an instrumental for the actual ending and a second version with lyrics for the curtain call. This is the one with lyrics.

It’s also where the title of this post comes from.

Tamara Dearing – Te Dua

Creative Commons License

Te Dua by Tamara Dearing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.tamaradearing.com.

Posted: February 4th, 2010
Categories: artwork, marketing, music, original songs, the process
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Repetitive Christmas Tunes.

Here’s a lyric I wrote four years ago for my wife, who hates a certain Christmas song by Paul McCartney.

There’s not much to explain about this process, except for a wonderful discovery while writing. In the bridge sections of the song, I threw in a joke about John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over) as a throwaway gag. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized you could sing the two songs in counterpoint.

I’ll leave it to the musicologists to parse what that says about the respective songwriters. I’m just happy to have the extra joke…

(to the tune of Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney)

The Moog is on,
The organs beep,
We hear some bells,
And I might weep

Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes
Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes

McCartney’s on,
The song is bland,
A melody
I cannot stand

Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes
Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes

The choir of children sing their song
Ding dong, King Kong,
Sing-song gone wrong…

(War is over,
No, it isn’t…
War is over,
No, it isn’t…)

Ohhhh
Ohhhhhhh

Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes
Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes

The words are short,
They seem to be
One syllable,
Simplicity

Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes
Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes

The choir of children repeat their words,
This song is for the birds
Sing song, sing song (War is over)
Ding dong, ding dong (No, it isn’t)
Ding dong, ding dong (That’s John Lennon)
(No, it’s a cover…)

The music’s played,
The spirits drunk,
Let’s hunt him down,
Man on the run…

Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes
Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes

The Moog is on,
The organs beep,
We hear Sir Paul,
And I might weep

Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes (Song is over…)
Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes (If you want it…)
Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes (Song is over…)
Simply hating repetitive Christmas tunes (Now…)

Ohhhhhhhhh
Christmas tunes

Posted: January 24th, 2010
Categories: music, parody, the process
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Comments: 4 Comments.

Suo Gan.

Another song, this arranged and performed by the lovely singer/songwriter Tamara Dearing, one of our regular actors. (And we’re very lucky to have her.)

This is an adaptation of an old Welsh lullaby, Suo Gan, which has become something of a Christmas song for no apparent reason. It may be most famous from Christian Bale lip-synching it in Empire of the Sun.

We used it as part of our reading of A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. It fit nicely at the end, where he’s tucked in bed and going to sleep. Because the lyrics had little to do with Christmas–and because no one seems to sing a true translation of the original Welsh anyway–I wrote a new, simple verse to fit the holiday a little more closely. It starts with the original first lines in Welsh. I gave it to Tamara, said “do what you will with it.”

Tamara, being Tamara, decided to learn the actual Welsh, create a soundscape of voices and then bring in the new verse as a harmony on top of everything. Every element you hear in this track is Tamara, from the voices to the instrumentation. Needless to say, this blew everyone away…

Tamara Dearing – Suo Gan

Suo Gan English lyric by David J. Loehr

Huna blentyn yn fy mynwes
hee-na blen-TIN ar-va MON-wez
Clyd a chynnes ydyw hon
kleed a han-NESS ah-DYOO han
Sleep, my angel, I will hold you,
I will keep you safe from harm

Like the angel told the shepherds,
Like the kings who saw the star,
Like the baby in His manger,
I will love you, forever more.

Creative Commons License

Suo Gan by Tamara Dearing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.tamaradearing.com.

Posted: January 22nd, 2010
Categories: music, songwriting, the process
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A first post and a song.

It’s long overdue, but I’m finally blogging about creative work again. And since “share your music day” is as good a reason as any, thanks to Dave Charest and Sterling Lynch, here’s a song I wrote a while back, When I Needed You.

This is from my play, The Rough Guide to the Underworld, which we produced at home in 2006 and in D.C. in 2009. (The website is from the D.C. production, which was rewritten from top to bottom.) One of the characters wandering this version of the Underworld is a troubadour with amnesia. All of his “original” songs are covers. Except this one at the end of the play, when he finally remembers…

Since part of the point here is to share “the process,” here’s how it came to be. I’d had the first three lines and the first chorus–and of course, the melody–in my head for a few years, but the song never wanted to finish itself. I didn’t know where the melody had come from or why these lyrics stuck to it. When I realized I needed a song for the Underworld–and when I knew who and what it was about–the rest of the words and the bridge melody came in about ten minutes. If you’ve read or seen the play, you’ll know the story. If not, then maybe if you’re up on your classical stories, you may be able to guess who he really is.

I’ve included two versions, performed by my theatre partner Jim Stark, who originated the role. The one was recorded live in performance in 2006, the other is a demo (recorded via iPhone) in 2009. The demo has one flub, but the guitar part is so much more developed. (What’s astounding is, in the demo, he’s working from memory.) But I wanted to include the original performance for the moment at the end of the last verse that always hits me like an anvil in the chest…still does…

Jim Stark – When I Needed You (2009 demo)

Jim Stark – When I Needed You (2006 in performance)

When I Needed You — music and lyrics © 2006 by David J. Loehr

In darkest night, you were the light
At the end of the tunnel, burning bright,
There you were, when I needed you.
And with love begun, the risen sun
Paled in the glory of two made one,
There you were, when I needed you.

When I needed you, you were there for me,
Even when I did not always want you to be,
But there were times when I thought I’d do better alone,
Times when I’d rather have been on my own,
Times when I should have known
I needed you.

Now I realize, love never dies,
But once you were only behind my eyes,
There you were, when I needed you.

And that which falls away
At the end of the day
Is weight off my soul forever,
And that which remains,
It pains me to say, is you,
Only and ever

And at the last, present faded to past,
You were the one who was holding fast,
There you were, when I needed you.

When I needed you, you were there for me,
Even when I did not always know you to be,
But there were times when I thought I had nothing to learn,
Times when I wanted some bridges to burn,
Then I would have nowhere else to turn,
When I needed you.
I needed you.
I needed you.

Creative Commons License

When I Needed You by David J. Loehr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.davidjloehr.com.

Posted: January 7th, 2010
Categories: music, songwriting, the process
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Comments: 6 Comments.