Sunday, February 15, 2009

Forest: Why

This is another one of my favorite songs, and one of Thom's saddest songs for me. Obviously, there's a lot of competition for that title. But Why is sad in a different way. It doesn't have the angry hurt of some of the others. The calm, detached acceptance in this one is what makes it go deeper.


If I remember correctly, Thom had a basic chord outline and asked me to write a piano part. Unlike others that ended up keyboard-only, Thom planned that this one would be from the git-go. In fact he may have come up with the original structure on piano. But my memory is a little fuzzy on that.

The take is ok... but it's still obviously done under the stress of pay-by-the-hour professional studio time. It's just not relaxed and there is some sloppy timing. The piano take for Down By Your Fire is better in this regard, but I had been playing Fire for years, whereas my Why part was only a week or so old when we recorded it. Once again, the piano is the E-mu PROFormance/1+, and it's not bad, even out there by itself.

I think three things give the piano part its particular character:
  • the use of sixths and ninths all over the place
  • splitting four-note chords into two consecutive two-note chords (first and third note in one, second and fourth in the other); this adds rhythm and opens up what would otherwise be more dense voicing
  • horizontal and vertical "shifting" of the split chords; vertically there is shifting among different inversions of the chords up and down the keyboard; the solo is really just different shifts of figures already played in the chorus; horizontally, the split chords shift to different beats in subsequent bars and also shift off the beat occasionally
We recorded the piano first and then added the vox, so Thom had to get the timing just right to anticipate the re-entry of the piano after the big pauses at 1:02-1:04 and 2:33-2:35. I think Marty and I made him redo those entries like 20 times each. And the temperature in that vocal booth just kept rising and rising. Haha. Good times.


  1. So many of Thomas' songs are sad. I think that is one reason I like his Tim Horton's song so much. It is funny and upbeat. I do like the sad ones, but they sometimes make me feel like crying.

  2. You're right about the tone of acceptance in this one, Kenneth. This is my favorite song from the album so far. I can't fault anything about the music either. Guess I'm kinda lucky that I don't have a very discerning ear for what could be better on the 20th time around!

    BTW...I have had a very good morning catching up, Kenneth. Thanks!