C.81 - "Night Cries"

Composed: 30th May to 5th June 2015

     Oh, this was hilarious! This work was written for ‘Harmony and Analysis B’ (you will remember ‘Harmony and Analysis A’ and the pastiche that was required for that). This time we had to do another pastiche, but instead of it being of a Classical piece, it had to be of a popular song. I had recently watched the renowned horror film, "Watership Down", for the first time (following my discovery of it from my ‘Sound Design’ lectures) and was just as scarred as anyone else that dared to watch it. A song from the film,"Bright Eyes", was one of the songs I considered making a pastiche of (alongside others including, "Hallelujah", and even "Cliffs of Dover").

     I wrote this pastiche in the week following "Unexpected Song", finishing it on the 5th June. I attach, here, the commentary that I wrote to accompany the submission, which I finished on the 9th June:

 

Harmony and Analysis B – Pastiche Write-up

     Foremost, I concluded on creating a pastiche of Mike Batt’s ‘Bright Eyes’ performed by Art Garfunkel as I had only recently watched the film ‘Watership Down’ for the first time – the film for which the song was created – so I had already gathered how it was used in its original context and its meaning. As this would also be my first attempt at creating a piece in the style of a popular song, I felt it would be more practical to imitate a style which contains much more basic instrumental techniques, allowing me to learn and imitate the most common techniques first before experimenting with anything more detailed.

      Some of these most basic techniques involved bass guitar slides and quick decorative flourishes on the acoustic guitars, which I decided upon using after hearing their use extensively within ‘Bright Eyes’.

     Originally, I had considered using the concept of the parody to create my pastiche, but after re-watching the film in which the song was used, I felt I did not want to disrespect the themes it was conveying, nor make fun of a song that was very likely close to some people. Therefore, I decided not to create a parody, but instead to try and focus on similar themes that the original was touching on; the ideas of moving from life into the afterlife, of near-death experiences and descriptive lyrics that suggest rather than state. The themes I ultimately concluded on using were similarly of death, near-death experiences, fear of the unknown but also redemption. Further, as the original song’s meaning was applied not solely to the animal characters of the film but also to humans, I attempted to focus on similarly applying the themes to both animals and humans. By devising the lyrics to suggest animals, I also tried to write them so that they could just as easily be applied to a human context. This was where the title of ‘Night Cries’ came from – a title that relates to those occasional animal cries one might hear during the night, but also relating to the end of someone’s life or a near-death experience they are going through. As I have attempted to imitate the lyrical structure as well as the musical structure, I devised the title to also rhyme with the original title, as such to suggest that this song is a continuation or a sequel-song to the original.

      After I was decided upon using the style of ‘Bright Eyes’, I first conducted a hypermetrical analysis of the song to discover its structural progression. It was from this that I discovered some fairly unusual techniques; there was a regular change of time signature, initially starting in 4/4 but moving to 3/4 or 6/4 during the verses and containing a brief 5/4 passage to conclude each verse. This unusual change of time signatures was unnoticeable from listening to the song merely on its own, thus I decided on following a similar structural progression and change of time signature in order to retain the fragmented structure that seemed to suggest confusion or paranoia, but was subtle enough to not be noticed by the casual hearer.

      The instrumentation was nearly identical, mainly as the original favoured acoustic instruments seemingly to attain an organic and realistic quality as opposed to an artificial blend of electric guitar and keyboard. This resulted in my use of mainly acoustic instruments:

  • Acoustic Guitars

  • Bass Guitar

  • Flutes

  • English Horn

  • Drum Kit

  • Strings

 

      With regard to harmony, I made careful note of the original harmonic progression and found that it would often progress through tertiary modulations. Therefore, I decided to use these similar modulations, but instead of copying its progression exactly I would often mirror it, leading to my progression from the ‘tonic – mediant’ rather than the ‘tonic – submediant’ progression of the original, and vice versa for the progressions in the chorus. There was one specific harmonic point that was very unusual; the brief use of a chord similar to a German augmented 6th within a bar of 5/4 (At 2:38 – 2:46 on the recording), seen here from my basic transcription:

 

      Effectively, it is an enharmonic C major chord with the added minor 7th, and as it was such an unusual chord to find in this piece which contains so many diatonic chords, I decided to include a variation of it within my pastiche as to retain this unique harmonic characteristic, but swapped the bass line and vocal part around as well as some new instrumental material:

      Further, the vocal lead into the chorus is also one of the most memorable aspects of the original, resulting in my decision to also use a vocal lead into the chorus section, as to further imitate the style.

       One significant issue is that Art Garfunkel’s voice was impossible for me to imitate, likely leading to the largest weakness of this pastiche – the vocal part. I have never been a great singer, particularly with popular music, and found it a challenge to try and produce something reasonably well performed. Another issue I feel is that I draw the line dangerously close to the song being merely a re-lyricized version of the original and it being a pastiche – I don’t think I altered as much as I should have and as a result it sounds perhaps a little too close to the original, particularly with structure. If I were to do another popular music pastiche in the future, I would likely choose one without a vocal part unless I am able to find someone confident enough to sing the part. Further, I would attempt at first to perform some of the simpler instrumental parts myself rather than relying on sound libraries. For example, I would have attempted to perform the acoustic guitar part but I was unable to acquire one in time.

     The score was written using Sibelius software and the instrumental backing was created in Cubase using EastWest sound libraries.

 

 

      It is true. I did, indeed, sing the vocals for this one. Perhaps that is where the title comes from? Finding the time to record the lyrics whilst in campus accommodation without alarming anyone nearby was very difficult! The lyrics, as you can easily tell, are my own.

      Nevertheless, just like the previous pastiche, this one is more or less a blatant rip-off of the original. The bass glissandi sound hilarious in the recording, thanks to my inexperience as I attempted to digitally recreate a glissando with samples.

      This was really my second attempt at a popular song, following the forgotten "C.1 - Free" piece I wrote way back in 2010, so forgive the cheese. The piece did surprisingly receive 78%, but no other feedback was given besides the mark.

Reminiscence written on 20th July 2016

Last updated: 20th October 2018

© 2019 Jonathan Shaw