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Day 253: Bulgarian Feedback And Failing To Write About Nothing

A while back I was slogging my way through recording and arranging Never Be Silent and put a rough mix up on the 50/90 site to get some second opinions on a thread titled Bulgarian Feedback. As well as a lot of cool advice a number of people said Bulgarian Feedback would be a cool title for a song. But only one man was cool enough to make it so – Johnny Cashpoint.

Bulgaria has fallen and there’s terror in the air.
Conquering invaders have arrived with questionnaire:
“Please rate our occupation on a scale of 1 to 4
Where one is sheer perfection and four is very poor.
How’d you find the food? (Please only rate food you can find.)
During interrogations were our men polite and kind?

and this classic couplet

Promised to provide a service that’s both harsh but fair.
Just ‘cos we’ve over-run you doesn’t meant that we don’t care.”

Listen to the song and read the rest of the lyrics

Jonathan Coulton wrote about his excellent song Mr Fancy Pants*

 It’s almost like this song was generated by the non-thinking parts of me, by the systems level utilities – sitting down and typing gibberish until something gets traction. Strangely, it was the first time I tried this technique during Thing a Week, and I wish I had surrendered to it earlier. I relied on it quite a bit for this new album, and it often led to much more honest and personal expression than I could have gotten to otherwise. It’s very hard to write about nothing for very long, and the real stuff sneaks out of you when you’re not looking.

It reminded me of my song Let’s Build An Airport. I started with a weird title, which was actually the title of a children’s book and what flowed out of me (oooh don’t sound like a reel arr-teest!) was a reflection of the escapism and frustration I was feeling inside. Like Coulton I want to try that more often.

I’ll be posting the new recording up soon, but for now here’s a live recording I did at the FAWM Over Party at the Vauxhall Griffin Pub in London. (Note: the audio starts before the video)

*You can listen to Mr Fancy Pants on the page but why don’t you go here
Find Thing A Week Four
Find Mr Fancy Pants
Click on the smiley face next to Mr Fancy Pants and get a FREE DOWNLOAD
See all those other smiley faces?
You can thank me later

Free download: Never Be Silent
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Song Vault

Never Be Silent



You didn’t save me 
 You didn’t save me so that I could keep my mouth shut

12 voices, piano, cello and cymbala with just a smidgeon of programmed percussion. Influenced by Bulgarian choir music, Never Be Silent is probably my most experimental and searingly honest spiritual song yet. Let me know your thoughts.

A big thanks to Rachel McClean for playing Cello.


Download the mp3 
Download the lyrics (PDF)

Youdidn’t save me,
Youdidn’t save me so that I could keep my mouth shut.
Youdidn’t rescue me,
Youdidn’t rescue me so I could play dumb.
Whileevery brick in this building longs to shout out
OhJesus loosen my ungrateful tongue

Sothat my heart may sing
Sothat my heart may sing to you
Sothat my heart may sing to you
Andnever be silent
Neverbe silent
Neverbe silent

Youdidn’t heal me,
Youdidn’t heal me so that I could take more poison.
Youdidn’t ransom me,
Youdidn’t ransom me to leave me a slave.
Whileall around me the songs of those you brought home
Theybreak the silence like you broke their chains

Godcan a dead heart sing?
Godcan a dead heart sing to you?

Fatheryou cut me,
Fatheryou cut into the branch to make it fruitful
Fatheryou punish me,
Fatheryou punish me to make me grow true
Helpme believe that the knife
Precedesthe harvest

Godmake my dead heart sing…

Godcan a dead heart sing?…

©Matt Blick 2011



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Day 210: Let’s Go Surfing Now

Yesterday I didn’t have enough time to finish off Never Be Silent so I started a new song. It’s called 3/Smack Em In The Teeth.

Bear with me.

Reading through the Psalms recently I’ve been struck by the giant gulf between what I feel comfortable singing, or even just expressing in conversation, as a Christian and the range of emotions that the Psalmists feel at ease with singing. And by extension what God feels OK with, ‘cos it made it into his book. And I know not everything is there to be emulated but it must mean it’s OK to at least say some of these things out loud if that’s how you feel. So I’ve been toying with setting some of these unmentionables to music to try to break through some of my own cultural hangups. At the same time Tom of Cookie Finger has inspired me with his stripped down lofi Punk approach to 50/90 – so I’m going to pretend to be the Ramones.

So for reasons musical and exegetical I don’t anticipate (Psalm) 3/Smack Em In The Teeth is ever going to appear in anyone’s Sunday service. But it might remove a few of my emotional blind spots.

So that was the plan. But today I decided I didn’t want to kick off my 50/90 with a negative song that was prone to misunderstanding. So I wrote a song called I Came To Surf. What do I know about surfing? Nada, dude. But I know Wikipedia. I’m following in the great tradition of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who had never been surfing in his life

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Day 207: Look Ma! I’m A Bulgarian Choir!

Today, after almost 2 months, I finished Never Be Silent. Well apart from fixing and mixing. I’ve been out of the blogging loop so long, here’s a few thoughts

Songs aren’t finished, they’re released. I’m learning that all over again.

I’ve learned a massive amount about singing, phrasing and accents, through recording this song. Also Bulgarian harmonies and arranging for voice.

I’m really working hard on singing in my real voice (rather than a mid Atlantic drawl). It’s harder than you think. Talking to a speech therapist from my Church helped.

Weird things happen to your head when you know you will not finish the song you’re working on tomorrow or the next day. You start to live in the song. In fact I’ve lived solely in the 3rd chorus for about a fortnight. It becomes a bit of a comfort blanket. You have to pick a smaller chunk and say “I’m going to finish THIS tomorrow”.

I am SO going to write a whole bunch of punk rock songs with one track of vocals next.

Been thinking a lot about God’s Eden proclamation – It is not good for the man be alone. As an DIY musician I spend most of my creative time on me onesee. And yet I know some amazing singers, musicians, producers and visual artist. So I’m going to try to invite more people in. I had a great time last week recording Grace Church Cellist/Bassist Rachel McClean. You’ll be hearing her work on Never Be Silent and a rerecording of Let’s Build An Airport soon.

Speaking of friends I went to see (ex-workmate) Tom Dempsey and (ex-bandmate) Tracey Beebe tear the Heart in Hand pub to pieces the other day with ‘Balkan wedding band’ Aistaguca . Who’d have thought 2 saxes, a sousaphone, a guitar and a tiny drum kit could wreak such funky havoc?

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Day 195: Houston We Have A Problem

So we’re one week into 50/90 and what have I done? Diddly squat, that’s what. Well no, that’s not strictly true.

I’m still slowly dragging Never Be Silent to a conclusion and I think I’m fairly OK with that.

Before FAWM I rushed through Shang Ding Hong Song at an insane pace just to start FAWM with a clean slate but I’ve decided that 50/90 will have to wait for me. Most of my writing time over the last few weeks has been spent trying to create a 10 part vocal line for a chorus that changes key and time signature. I had to write it by feel – singing a line, then another, then a third then going back and altering the second and so on. I also added a cymbala part (finally found a spot for that Christmas present from my kids) and I’m hoping to record a cello part (that will NOT be played by me).

So although the song feels out of control I’ve recommitted to getting it done piece by piece and putting everything else (writing wise) on hold.

Here’s what I still have to do

3rd chorus – 4 more parts
clean up/punch in a couple of lead vocal parts
2nd chorus – some simplish vocal parts – no written yet
outro – few overlapping vocal parts
build up to 3rd chorus – 10 vocal parts
write cello arrangement
record cello
mix

man that’s so boring – as you can guess I’m writing this more for my benefit that yours. I’ve got a few finished songs that I still haven’t put up here – watch this space…

PS I did write a 2 chord ukelele song with some 6 year olds (Ukelele’s are a big deal in the FAWM-50/90 universe).

PPS Nicholas Tozier recently posted another great article on songwriting called
Is Songwriting Mostly Inspiration or Perspiration? that you should definitely check out.
And for the record- I’m definitely on the sweaty side of the room

Download my new song: Faithful & True for free!!!
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Day 174: A Good Report And Greetings From The Edge

Tell yourself, every time you play, that the world will not end and people will not hate you just because you make a mistake…

Today I was writing reports for pupils. (yay teaching!)

I wrote the above in a report for a very nervous student. I didn’t add the following, though it would also be good advice –

The world will end and people will hate you, but it won’t be just because you make a mistake on the guitar

In other news

I’m still chipping away at Never Be Silent. I know what Philip Glass means when he talks about writing at the very edge of what he can hear. That’s what I’m doing musically and theologically. Every evening I’m looking at a bewildering musical puzzle and eventually fitting in one more piece of the puzzle saying “Yes. Am will work there in place of A major”. Or “Yes.’Take more poison’ sings better than ‘drink more poison'”

The only way through is to record it now without trying to perfect it first. I can understand very complex music and sift through theological nuances when they are there in front of me. But when it is all in my head it’s so hard to understand what I have.

I know it will not I’m pretty sure it will not be a great song. I’ve already written one bad song with this idea. But having pushed myself I know I will be a better writer for finishing it. And my compositional comfort zone will always just be that little bit bigger.

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Day 170: Numbers, Numbers

Oh boy I so suck at blogging. But the truth of the matter is I’ve been trying to write. So that’s some comfort.

Here’s some catch up.

80 Girlfriends

First I did another song with a pupil. The challenge was to write something to help him learn the 8 times table in a non obvious way. The result was 80 Girlfriends. I won’t be putting it on my download page but you can hear it here.

At 1 o’ clock I met Kate she was my girlfriend number 8
At 2 o’ clock I met Christine, she was girlfriend number 16

you get the picture

the chorus is

All my girlfriends keep on multiplying

(see what I did there?) Anyway I wrote during a half hour guitar lesson, limiting myself to the 3 chords the pupil knew.

Imagine my embarrassment when the secretary at another school was printing a rota off my memory stick and came across a file marked 80 Girlfriends. Hard to explain.

8 Posts

I’ve been trying to blog my way through Abbey Road over at Beatles Songwriting Academy and I’m on the home stretch and trying to rush through the 8 posts on Something.

34 Songs

Song 34 is called Never Be Silent. I’m really battling with becoming more emotionally honest and it’s a tough process. Last night I asked myself and God (it called prayer) can I really say that about you? I think I can as it’s only things that are clearly there in the Bible but we gloss over things so easily. Psalms is becoming a new book to me as I see in those scriptural songs things no one would dare put in a worship song. Just in case I’m getting too normal I’m also trying to incorporate some ideas from Bulgarian vocal music.

2 Free Albums

I wish I was a better blogger then I’d tell you all about Josh Garrels’ free album which is cool, interesting, right off the beaten track, and far too long for me to be able to tell you whether it’s any good or not yet.

I’d also tell you about the free live album from The Civil Wars which is really growing on me after I got over the frustration of having to download it 3 times before it worked properly (I’d just download it track by track if I were you) and the free track Barton Hollow which I love (after I got over the frustration of it being in mp4 format and it causing my computer to crash a couple of times when I tried to move the file). You need to scroll to the bottom of the page and enter your email address.

But I won’t. I’m too busy.

The Civils are supporting Adele on her UK tour and doing two headline gigs too.

3000 Downloads

Yep that’s right. I’ve checked my stats for the first time since mid March. Just over 3000 mp3 downloads of my songs so far. That’s pretty amazing.

50/90

I’m sorely tempted. I had such a good time with FAWM but I have to work out some kind of fence around my writing to stop it spilling over into every area of my life.

Oh and Sharon Goldman at Songwriting Scene gave me plug in a post on nonsense. I speak it like a native.

Free songs by Matt Blick

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Showing Up Teaching

Day 145: More Kids Than You Can Shake A Stick At

Lady Gaga attempts to eggscape from marauding pre-teen fans

Today I’ve been spending some much needed Kwal-Al-Tee time with my GLW (good lady wife). Then teaching kids. Teaching adults. Then doing a school gig. Traditionally no matter how many kids are down to do it a good percentage don’t turn up. So I wasn’t too fearful of putting a group of 40 kids aged 8-10 forward.

Well wouldn’t ya know it about 50 of the blighters showed up. So thanks to Long Jenny Silver Morton who helped me get all of em in tune so we could rock out with our rendishun of Bad Romance.

Oh Yes. I am, in fact, down with the kids.

After all that I felt, “I’m tired, I deserve a night off”. But I couldn’t do it people. I had to go down to the Matt Cave (aka my bedroom) and play through a few old songs for ideas.

Results

  • A couple of really bad old songs filed away. Did I say bad? I should be doing a blog called Matt Blick Bad Songwriting Academy where my younger self demonstrates how NOT to write songs…
  • One bad old song called That My Heart May Sing that has something about the 2nd verse lyrics that speaks to me still. Back in the song starts folder for you. (Update: This has now become Never Be Silent)
  • Some transcriptions of old Vineyard songs that I now have the real music for – bin!
  • A song I transcribed written by my old pastor! In the ‘songs written by others’ folder
  • A crazy little interesting song that I never recorded called Small Is The Gate. Into the song starts folder. Maybe I’ll record it now I have some recording gear.

So that was a productive half hour.

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