Saturday, October 20, 2007

2x: 4. Life Is A Circle

Time to slow things down a little...

Track 4: Life Is A Circle
Thom's songwriting journal entry for Life Is A Circle

Virtual Ensemble
  • A.V.: acoustic guitar, lead vocal
  • B.B.: bass, background vocal
  • K.B.: organ, synthesizer, background vocal
  • D.P.: congas
  • E.G.: shaker
Actual Ensemble
  • Thom Barker: acoustic guitar, lead vocal
  • Ken Barker: fretless bass (BEADGC), organ, synthesizer, cat toy, drum programming, background vocals

Listening to the transparent, finger-picked acoustic and the somewhat spastic congas, I decided this track needed some kind of constant ground rhythm. It needed shaker! Johanne had recently bought a new toy for the cats: two balls wrapped in and joined together with twine. I remember thinking how great they sounded. So I set up a mic at head-height, figured out how to hold the balls and move them to get an even recording, and hit the big red button. But I'd forgotten that this song is six minutes long, and by the end my arm was about ready to fall off. Of course I could have stopped at any time and just copied what I had to the rest of the track... but I had such a great take going!

This arrangement has another brand new theme on the organ. The first entry (1:17) is a simple legato statement, with one subtle grace note embellishment. The second statement (1:55) adds a harmony note or two, has some staccato and glisses up to a higher note toward the end. The third (final) statement (3:25) adds more harmony notes and embellishes the melody with more runs, including a nice parallel thirds run at 3:29.

This was the only song I was able to get a decent standalone recording of my Alembic fretless. On all the other songs the recording (not the playing, honestly) sounded like krep. Breaks my heart.

Did we really need that blues fill on the bass at 4:43? Probably not. Too bad, it's my recording.

Two organ parts appear right at the end. They're variations of the original organ theme, played in different octaves and offset in time. The time offset is intended to be suggestive of a Simple Canon (aka a Round, like Row-Row-Row-Your-Boat), but I made the repetitions imperfect in various ways. That is, "the ending is a round, but not very circular", a kind of bad musical pun on the lyrics.

The organ parts at the end also have their reverb sends pre-fader. So as the volume of the organs fades, their reverb doesn't (making it sound like they're moving farther away). I didn't actually intend to do this, but I ended up starting to like it before I got around to fixing it.

Next: 2x: 5. Body Of Mine


  1. I love what you have done with this song - right down to the cat toy. You made me laugh with the description of your 6 minute stretch on the shakers but the ground rhythm itself touched my soul is a circle.

  2. I set aside this morning so I could listen to all of the tracks and read Thom's Journal at the same time. It has been a wonderful journey. Kenneth,I remember the times spent in the attic studio, seeing how you were putting together the album, the conversations with you Thomas over the years and watching our children make their own lives, their accomplishments, their joys, their disappointments, and I think the album is terrific. CONGRATULATIONS!