Monday, May 28, 2012

Soul Clap Its Hands and Sing: "it was a pleasure to burn" production diary

Today's offering features special guest Shanna Germain. I discovered Shanna's This Body of Work on Google Plus, and instantly fell in amazed lust with her often sexually-charged and always in-charge short work. In mid-January, she posted "Soul Clap Its Hands and Sing," and I thought "I can totally use this for FAWM material!" It never happened during the month of February, but in early March I had a track ready. Problem was, it used my low, growling baritone, which didn't quite fit with the clearly feminine point of view. So, after long weeks of gentle nudging, I got the artist herself to give me a track.

The trouble is the ship left without me. Also I cut a hole
in the sunset-tinged sail. Not a hole; a heart shape.
I almost forget they’re the same. The scissors sank like
live weights, flashing their teeth at the mackerels.
Summer ends with a settle of silver and sand.

A woman alone is an alien thing. The dock rejects her heft.
Mouths open to the sky, golden birds pray for rains
and the wormtails of truths. Wishes can break your neck
if you don’t cant your face three degrees to the right.
of the mast. Look at me, quick. There’s nowhere else to go

but down. Last night the boatman had tomorrow for eyes.
There was no place left to slot my coins. Think of that face
like the ones drawn on rice—a curio to scare the children with.
My muse slunk off with a half-cocked heel and a man
half her age. If I believed in gods, I’d fuck them all.

Once I was younger. Every word was a seaweed scrawl of bracken,
every line a breaking wave of wood. Who wants to be a bird
when I can be me? Song was never mine for pyre. My hair is spun
of golden scales. When the ship sinks, let’s say it was never my fault.
Let’s say I really wanted to go all the way.
I feel like I should tell you more about Shanna, but I also feel that I don't really have the right to pin her down like that. Besides, she's done a very good job of it herself:
First and foremost, she is a leximaven of the highest order, exploring her love of the written word through a multitude of formats and styles. Shanna (pronounced like ‘Shaun’ with a sigh of pleasure at the end) also claims the titles of (in no particular order):  girl geek, lust/slut, wanderlust-er, avid walker and biker, tree kisser, knife licker, steak-maker, book-nerd and Schrodinger’s Brat.
With a whole lot of writing years under her belt (or her collar, depending on the day), Shanna’s poems, essays, short stories, novellas, articles and more have found homes in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, books and websites.
I have long been a fan of spoken word pieces, that peculiar subgenre/step-chield of audio books and songs. But they can be tricky things; it's not a mere matter of recording a poetry recitation (which this offering led me to discover is no "mere" matter.) A spoken word piece is about ambiance, closer to Ani Difranco's ethereal jazz riffs or the wonderful weirdness of Coil.

For this composition, I went to my favorite sample junkyard: SampleSwap. Every last bit of percussion that you hear is from there; about three or four different pieces, with varying amounts of reverb and other effects. With the right groove underway, the rest of the composition feel easily into place. There's no chorus or any kind of refrain, but I knew that I wanted to somehow subtly translate the numbering of the stanzas in Shanna's poem. Thus, those pounding guitar breaks. (Over which, inevitably, I couldn't resist re-sampling some vocal parts; so, now there is a refrain.)

Musically, "Soul Clap" is all about dynamics, moving from that heart-beat thrum to a tinkling acoustic to the pounding distortion of the refrain guitars, and then back again. It's also about theme and variation, as each verse features the chord progression and mini-melody in a slightly different way. That wonderful whine throughout, by the way, is a MIDI-cello with a heap of effects on it.

I am very grateful for Shanna agreeing to do the vocals. I love to collaborate, especially with women who lend my work a much need variance in tone.

This week, real life and its real job rear their heads again, so I'm not sure what I'll be able to do in the studio. Have no fear, however, more to come!

No comments: