This is the fourth of my ongoing series of blog posts on the Making Of my new album as Granfalloon, Calendar - Volume 1. To read the first in the series go here.
Track 4 - PAINT IT BY NUMBERS
(A maths professor who can only express love through theorems)
I suspect this suggestion may have been trying to trip me up… and very nearly did. My knowledge of theorems of any kind lies between very little and zero.
Written in the last week of May, 2014
On Monday I had played a show in Liverpool at Sound Food And Drink and as happenstance would have it, there was a PhD in the philosophy of maths in the audience who very kindly attempted to explain Henri Poincaré's theory of Conventionalism to me. This formed the basis for the second verse with its notion that if everything doubled in size that one would never notice.*
The "Shall I compare thee..." line I had since deciding to write this song. I enjoyed the idea of trying to juxtapose the elegant yet complex theorem with the more flowery excess of Romanticism and Shakespeare. Cribbing a quote on how maths is a "useful fiction" and with a chorus to go and knowing I wanted the song to end with Q.E.D. (thus it is proven), I was only one Pythagoras mention away from finishing the song! Highly appropriate given the Greek's theories and discoveries in the relationship between music and maths.
*Extremely reductive and not at all correct from a mathematical perspective but I like it as a poetic notion all the same.
This song follows a fairly standard arrangement (A-B-C-A-B-C-D-B-C), being an homage to some of those 50’s and 60’s hits I love so much and the doo-wop backing vocals sung by Daz Woodcock (also on bass guitar) support that.
We struggled initially with the rhythm of this track. Originally the verse drum part was occurring during the chorus with a more obviously 50's part on the verse, but I didn’t want to go wholesale 50’s pastiche with this one. After a couple of Fats Domino-esque attempts at it, everything fell into place once we moved Andy Lyth’s innovative post-rock drum figure to the verses giving it a pleasing counterbalance.
Special mention to Cleg’s spidery guitars which pleasantly surprise me on every listen. It’s time to introduce Garreth Knott (trumpets) too. Helloooo Garreth! Some powerful trumpet stabs adding a bit of a Nightsweats vibe.
Goal: Wonky simplicity
When I first heard this tune, it was the bridge melody and rhythm that really caught my ear and would create the template for the intro that I played. It stays pretty faithful to that rhythm but I couldn't stop myself from adding a little flourish on the G major chord.
As the song is quite complex lyrically and the verses quite dense with their lush backing vocals, my part had to be angular enough to complement things but not too spiky to distract. To achieve this (arguably) I played a muted staccato figure for the first half and that same figure but up an octave for the second half: A simple device that provides a sense of forward motion.
For the bridge I just played double stops that emphasise the vocal rhythm and melody. The backing vocals here are great so my job was to not intrude.
Big single notes were all that was needed for the chorus.
A tasty little fill leads us into the middle 8 where I tried to add some decoration before the rising arpeggio on the final repeated chord. Again, this adds forward motion and is rhythmically off kilter enough to add a sense of respite / resolution when we get back to the bridge.
Another bridge where I stayed faithful to the vocal line is followed by a big double chorus. Here enters the second guitar that rises, building that tension and maintaining the forward motion until the song winds down in the final chord.
Another song about maths...