New Original: After a God

This tune's been slow-cooking for a very long time. You might remember some of my posts from a couple years ago about my fears about composing and working through blocks about it. That heavy round of self-work was a big boost to some creative endeavors that included more recording, more composing, and more writing.

I found I was less afraid of composing when I didn't have to worry about writing the words, too, so I started looking for poetry. This poem was the first one I added to my collection for composing:


After a God

by Jenny Browne

The man I love most says one day
he will take a ballpoint pen and connect
the stars across this freckled
scoop of chest and milky way. 
We’ll cross the slope
of pale belly and name
the new constellation after a god
who shows people
all the places they might shine.


Part of the reason this tune took a long time to complete was because I started with the melody and melodic rhythm first. I wanted to make sure the text was set in a way that was as close to how I would speak it as possible. But once I started adding accompaniment to my melodies, I often found the song too far from the sensation I had originally felt when reading the poem. The melody and accompaniment fought together for a long time. But then I tried just putting the melody and text aside, writing a chord progression that captured the poem's feel for me, and then adjusting the melody slightly to fit that progression. The final product was much closer to what I had hoped to represent.

The poem brings the vast expanse of space into the intimate space between two people, and I tried to maintain that pull with the musical elements. I wanted chords that created a wide-stepping harmonic progression, but also felt warm and enveloping. The vocal sound is intimate, but the melody sweeps through long, suspended, sustained notes. My first drafts were just for piano and bass, but it felt like it needed something to keep the sweeping chords and melody line from getting too bogged down and spaced out. Trip-hop/electronic drum patterns started presenting themselves as a way to provide momentum and grounding. The drums completely drop out every three measures to release back into a feeling of being suspended in space.

The song naturally developed a relationship with threes. The chord roots are all a major 3rd apart, which creates an infinite harmonic loop. The accent patterns and word emphases in the poetry naturally fell over a trio of three-measure segments. My interpretation of the poem includes the dream of creating something new...a third entity...maybe a child or an artistic creation of some kind...so it was interesting to me that theme of three showed up on its own.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Feel free to share!