SYOS

Original (tenor, sop, and vox - being very brave now!)

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Profusia

Profusia

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@Profusia: Hi Thomas, sorry for the late reply. I'd intended to post this on Tuesday, but I got distracted by 'life';).On Tuesday I'd listened to the song 3 or 4 times. The 'delay' in replying gave me the chance to listen to it again after 3-4 days.

On Tuesday, I was going to write that the song 'grew on me'. That's even more so today! I still like it. I agree with previous posters that it's great to hear original songs and I think you did a great job in composing the music and lyrics and and playing sax. I also thought that the vocalist gave an excellent performance on what - for a vocalist - was a difficult song to sing.

My 'personal impressions' (always with the intention of helping you reflect and perhaps learn) is purely from the perspective of a 'listener'' I do play tenor sax in a couple of amateur Big Bands and I'm no great shakes at solos or improv. So I'll leave it others to comment on these.

My main impressions are:
- you played a short intro and a long solo. It didn't sound to me as if the sax was 'present' (in however limited a way) during the whole performance. Being extremely B&W about it, it was as if someone had pressed an 'on/off switch' for the sax at 2 points.
- the vocals were quite 'dense' in the sense that a) there was pretty much no 'space' between verses or between verses and chorus and b) each line was 'packed' with syllables; at times I wished (as a listener) that there was a bit more 'space' (as a punctuation mark) between verses and choruses. Each was a 'musical and lyrical phrase' and just as I thought 'hey, that was a nice phrase', the next one had already started. So at times, the 'density left me a bit 'breathless'. I'm amazed that it it didn't leave the vocalist breathless too! :)
- I found your solo (tenor+sop) long. For me personally, the tenor solo sounded just about the right length as an 'íntermezzo'; I do realise (from Big Band numbers) that 16-bar - or longer solos often repeated by different instruments. So there's nothing 'wrong' with the length of the solo, I just personally was ready for the vocals again at the end of the tenor solo.
- the 'cadence' of a song consists of patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. I'm no songwriter but from what I've read and watched, the 'best' cadence seems be one in which the stresses fall on "meaningful" (high-value) words rather than on common 'connecting' words (and, or, to, at, etc). In the chorus, having the stresses fall on less important words (while the important ones were unstressed) irritated me. I found it really weird. But, if it's deliberate, it does have the effect of being unusual!. A less important point is that there are one or two 3-syllable words in the 'verse' that the singer has to get out in the time where - in the rhythm - there's time to to (usually) sing just one syllable. I found this less 'strange' today, probably because I already knew the lyrics. I'll give some examples of the cadence below.
- I really enjoyed your tenor solo! For me, it suited the 'mood' of the song (and vocals) perfectly. I enjoyed the sop solo slightly less. Not only because it was (for me) an unnecessary extension of the tenor solo but because (in pitch and style) it also seemed to stray more from the 'mood' of the song. As a tenor player, I'm of course biased.:)
- The vocalist had an assertive (but not over-assertive!) voice and very clear diction. 'He had a certain 'presence' however he played with the timing and dynamics. I felt that you could perhaps have emulated this more in your intro: a more assertive tone, a bit more more attack on your notes and clearer separation between them.

So turning all these around into 'suggestions that you might want to consider' for future compositions:
- build in more 'space' between verses and chorus (as punctuation marks) that also allow you to play a few backing notes that remind listeners that you're still there
- consider where the stresses in the cadence fall and what effect this has on listeners
- consider whether the listener would prefer one long solo repetition (as in this song) or multiple shorter solo's mixed in with vocals (in this song: one solo on the verses and later - following some vocals - another solo on the chorus)
- consider how you're going to 'set the mood/tone' of the song in your intro

Again, I'm just one of many more listeners. I'm not being deliberately critical. I really did like the song (5 times over!). I really do hope that you'll continue to write more of your own work and I hope that these impressions may help you in that.

Mike

PS examples of cadence:

Chorus:
Swim with sea lions and sharks, [OK]
Turtles and penguins too [and = weak]
Marvel at Everest [at=weak]
Have a crack at K2 [OK]
Behold Saharan sands [in normal speech: Saharan sands]
Hang with Orang Utans [in normal speech: Orang Utans
Blue footed Boobies that dance [OK: blue footed 'is 3 syllables, other lines have 2 introductory unstressed syllables. Blue-foot Boobies?]
Oh will you give me a chance [OK: "Just give me a chance" is one syllable shorter as intro ]
To show you

Verse:
Walked through history on the Chinese wall ["history" - 3 syllables - sang as 1]
Where we’ll watch pairs of duelling Albatros [too many syllables in this line for comfort. Intro 3 syllables and "duelling"in 1 syllable]

Over the whole song just 2 examples of "many syllables per line" means that all other lines in the verses have IMHO a perfect cadence! This is definitely the most important 'take-away'. It's not at all easy to do as a lyricist and you've done it remarkably well. You obviously know what you're doing. If the vocalist is fine with these 2 lines, just forget that I even mentioned them.!
Hi Mike,

Wow so much to digest here - thanks a lot for making such an effort to share your thoughts, and for your kind words.

I guess I should own up. For some reason I thought everyone would realise that I sang it myself - but I can see now that there was no way for people to really know that, other than that I'd never have suggested shooting the vocalist if it had been anyone else. So yeah "wrote the theme tune, sang the theme tune". Apologies if that reference isn't universal ("Little Britain")

My songs are usually hard to sing. I'm a monster for not leaving much breathing space between phrases for one thing. I write melody first, and then lyrics afterwards (ALMOST if not quite always) and then realise what a hard job I've given the vocalist. If you wish you are at liberty to assume that more than one take needed to be stitched together to get through the bridge because of lack of breathing space ;). I couldn't possibly comment :D

I didn't want to impose sax backing underneath the vocals for fear of muddying things, and as you saw there really wasn't room for any sax fills between the phrases so effectively the sax is indeed switched in and out as and when required. Perhaps I should consider some subtle backings to give it more of a "member of the band" presence. It's an idea worth exploring so thanks. Some of my songs do have sax fills and/or backings. I also do sometimes produce songs which are vocal, solo, vocal, solo, vocal. Or indeed just the classic 32 bar vocal, 16 bar solo, 16 bar vocal (from bridge).

The length of the solo break is why I switched between tenor and soprano. Ideally I would probably usually include a 16 bar solo and then back to vocals on the bridge, but, having written as many lyrics as I had, I didn't want to throw any away hence put in a full 32 bar chorus of improv, albeit split across the 2 horns to try to inject some variety. But I totally understand your point.

Your points about which words the stresses fall on is really interesting so thanks for bringing it to my attention. It's not anything I've ever consciously considered, or heard about before. It kind of does make some sense, but I don't appear to be sensitive to it at all. Perhaps now I'm aware of the concept I'll become sensitive to it. But right now I'm really happy with the lyrics and how they fit with the rhythm so am not going to tie my self up in knots over that one. I guess I just write what sounds right to me, and hope that's the best way I can evaluate it. I'm really sorry to hear that it irritated you though, and obviously its a concern if it would irritate a significant percentage of listeners. I can't say I wrote it this way consciously or for effect, but, I like to mess with rhythms, and distract the listener a little, so maybe subconsciously I could have written it this way to create a similar effect. I'm not a true jazzer, not by a long way, but it is an attempt to write a "jazz standard" style song, and I see a large ingredient of jazz as striving to challenge the listener (and inadvertently the player or singer quite often unfortunately).

The sop solo isn't good - I fully accept that it needs improving or replacing. I don't write bridges that are easy to solo over (at least for me!)

No plans to stop writing. My debut project was a studio album of original jazz/showtune style songs using 7 different female vocalists across the 18 tracks, with lots of different permutations of vocals, solos, and backings etc. I've had 16 tracks from that album played on BBC Introducing local radio so far (which doesn't mean a fat lot other than it can't be total rubbish I guess) and they also invited us to a live recording and videoing session to perform 4 numbers from the album and interview me, and nominated us for consideration for playing at New York WinterJazz Festival (although we didn't get selected). I'm still new at this and obviously it's an expensive game with no financial reward to speak of but I'm definitely encouraged to keep going. This song is part of the follow up project which is all self-produced at home (to save money) using electronic trickery and a mix of the jazzy/show tune tracks and retro soft-rock, piano ballady type stuff (some without any sax). Whether the BBC will ever play any of my self-produced stuff with my voice on it is yet to be discovered - the production quality clearly isn't going to be as high, but, for someone who wasn't playing a musical instrument 7 years ago I'm happy with how it's going. I've still got a hell of a lot to learn, but loving it :)

Thanks, sincerely, for all of your input,

Thomas
 
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Wade Cornell

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I suggest that Mike should NEVER listen to Joni Mitchell if he doesn't like the bounce or flow of these words. You should also never listen to Rap if you like spaces or time to digest words. I'm going to disagree 100% with Mike's (in depth) assessment. Maybe it's too easy for sax players who don't possess a convincing professional delivery to lack critical ears for their instrument of choice? We may also wish to be more forgiving and kind since we're mostly in the same boat here?

We are no longer in the time of Rogers and Heart, or Gershwin and Gershwin. It's the 21st Century and strict rules don't apply. What matters still is singing in tune, and delivery with feeling and style. This is the strength of this piece. Good imagery and delivery.

Could it be better if accents were to hit critical words ? Maybe, but that's very minor compared to instrumental solos that are weak. The voice has drive and panache, the instrumental parts do not. Critical assessment (for me) isn't about "nit picking" it's what are the big issues if you're assessing the whole. If I were a record producer hearing this with an ear for what parts of this would I buy... my answer would be to hire the singer and fire the sax player.
 
OP
Profusia

Profusia

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Location
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I suggest that Mike should NEVER listen to Joni Mitchell if he doesn't like the bounce or flow of these words. You should also never listen to Rap if you like spaces or time to digest words. I'm going to disagree 100% with Mike's (in depth) assessment. Maybe it's too easy for sax players who don't possess a convincing professional delivery to lack critical ears for their instrument of choice? We may also wish to be more forgiving and kind since we're mostly in the same boat here?

We are no longer in the time of Rogers and Heart, or Gershwin and Gershwin. It's the 21st Century and strict rules don't apply. What matters still is singing in tune, and delivery with feeling and style. This is the strength of this piece. Good imagery and delivery.

Could it be better if accents were to hit critical words ? Maybe, but that's very minor compared to instrumental solos that are weak. The voice has drive and panache, the instrumental parts do not. Critical assessment (for me) isn't about "nit picking" it's what are the big issues if you're assessing the whole. If I were a record producer hearing this with an ear for what parts of this would I buy... my answer would be to hire the singer and fire the sax player.
I view all perceptions as valid. It's a big world out there and no piece of music, or art of any kind, will 100% satisfy everyone. I take all feedback and try to make sense of it, and see where I can improve, but still staying true to my own gut feelings. If someone points out something and helps me see what could be improved in my own eyes its extremely useful. If I can't see it, I don't consider it invalid, as it's their perception, and possibly, in fact probably, would be shared by others. But I don't strive to write for everyone. I write primarily for me, and hope to find an audience that shares a liking for what I express. I think it's abundantly clear the sax playing is far far from stellar, and that the soprano solo illustrates that most profoundly. But they are still me. Still my. art. My expression, BUT NOT as best as I could do it. And my crime was in putting it out without taking more time and more takes and honing those solos further. I've accepted this. I needed to hear it. I shouldn't have needed to hear it, but there it is. I've never ever, to anyone, made my self out to be a good sax player, (and even less so a singer as it happens). I asked for feedback and am very grateful for it. I particularly wanted feedback on the mix/production side, but it's all valid and helpful. However, I'm going to say one last thing which I hope you'll take as honest and well intentioned feedback too Wade: Giving an answer to a hypothetical question that wasn't asked and which may intimidate other group members, aside from just me, from posting their sax recordings doesn't really seem helpful, especially when the point had already been made and accepted multiple times. You've made it clear you thought my sax playing was bad, and I haven't disagreed with you, in fact have acknowledged and accepted it. It's not an argument that you need to win, and everyone else has to agree with. If other people find it passable it's not a reflection on your judgement. There's no need to beat the point to death or imply that they must be bad sax players too. I'm sure you're a great player, but come on, play nice so that everyone can continue to value your feedback in future.
 

Wade Cornell

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I apologize if my comments seemed repetitive or hurtful. Not the intention. Unfortunately I think the point is still being missed. Parts of this (vocals and writing) are professional grade. It seems from what you've said that's what you are aiming for.

Trying to be all things (all the musical parts, singer, producer engineer, etc.) is seldom done right. That's why most people collaborate. I use others who are much better engineers, bass players, singers, etc. or they use me for the things I'm good at. Recognizing our weaknesses and making collaborations is the smart thing to do. Putting out a track where there is a glaring problem blackens the whole project. What's the reason for your insisting on playing everything? I just don't get this. The comments made should be taken in the context of a review of a track that seeks to be a professional presentation. How long will it take you to sound like a pro sax player in the same league as your singing?
This is reality. Please consider this in the framework of YOUR ambitions and not that I'm just trying to pan anyone who puts up a recording for comment. We should (as you infer) be kind to each other and judge people for the level at which they are playing. I would have hoped that the context of the professional ambition gave the criticism justification.

Maybe this is not the place to give honest feedback?.
 
OP
Profusia

Profusia

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I apologize if my comments seemed repetitive or hurtful. Not the intention. Unfortunately I think the point is still being missed. Parts of this (vocals and writing) are professional grade. It seems from what you've said that's what you are aiming for.

Trying to be all things (all the musical parts, singer, producer engineer, etc.) is seldom done right. That's why most people collaborate. I use others who are much better engineers, bass players, singers, etc. or they use me for the things I'm good at. Recognizing our weaknesses and making collaborations is the smart thing to do. Putting out a track where there is a glaring problem blackens the whole project. What's the reason for your insisting on playing everything? I just don't get this. The comments made should be taken in the context of a review of a track that seeks to be a professional presentation. How long will it take you to sound like a pro sax player in the same league as your singing?
This is reality. Please consider this in the framework of YOUR ambitions and not that I'm just trying to pan anyone who puts up a recording for comment. We should (as you infer) be kind to each other and judge people for the level at which they are playing. I would have hoped that the context of the professional ambition gave the criticism justification.

Maybe this is not the place to give honest feedback?.
Wade, I've tried at length, and numerous times, to make it crystal clear that I value, and am grateful for any constructive criticism, and that I have accepted and agreed with your criticism of the sax playing. My issue is with the apparent need to repeatedly and unnecessarily labour, and indeed escalate the point, even when it's been accepted many times, to the point, and with wording, that makes it insulting rather than constructive, and also to make out that another commenter's views are invalid and an indication that they aren't a good sax player. These kind of comments can put people off sharing their recordings, and put people off giving feedback for fear of being disparaged or their views declared invalid. As far as I'm concerned all perceptions are valid, regardless of whether or not they conform to yours, or indeed mine, because everyone is a potential listener and consumer of music. Although (and this fact may irk you) I do earn money playing sax, I don't consider myself a professional sax player, or musician, and certainly not singer or producer or songwriter. I'm just learning. But since people do pay me to play sax, and the BBC have given me some recognition, it is evidence that there is a market out there for sax playing that does not meet your high standards. That's not to say that those high standards shouldn't be striven for, but I am where I am and as I've explained in a previous reply to you on this thread I will look at either improving the solos or replacing the sop solo completely with something else, and am not in a position to sub out work to other people. Why do you need me to give further detail than that? So yes, this is the place to give honest feedback, if it's constructive criticism and not insulting, and if you can handle it when other people have views that differ to your own.
 

Wade Cornell

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Hi Thomas. I've just tried to send you a PM as I don't think the following should have been in public discussion. However your mail box is full and can not accept further messages, so here it is:

I'm very sorry if my comments seemed harsh. Hopefully you didn't miss the encouragement for your writing and singing. Writers and singers who are good are always in demand. Good to great sax players are plentiful, cheap, and not in demand. If you have professional ambitions (and it seems you do) then showcasing your strong points that are in demand is what will work. Nobody wants to know that you're still learning how to play sax so you should be given a break for not playing at a level that matches the rest of the track. Others hear what they hear and don't want or need excuses. Your sax playing (tone, attack, rhythmic feel) are not at a professional level. Leave your sax ego out of it and produce the best professional music that you can. Pats on the back from this site's peers are fine, but don't count when you are trying to sell music to hard headed music professionals.

I've given you a hard time over this. No matter, as I'm giving you a challenge so that you can get on with promoting the talent you have and eliminate the weakness that you seem so determined to kill your project with.

If you send me a MP3 of your track minus the saxes I will send back a WAV track of sax fills and solos. You will need to put a click track at the beginning for sync purposes. You can then edit it down to whatever you want, use it, or don't (I don't care).

This is NOT a big deal as I do lots of recording projects all the time and it takes very little time for me to do. I don't want or need credit for playing, don't care about if you sell it and will have no claim whatsoever. I don't care if you let people think it's you playing. The point is to help you establish yourself in the fields in which you shine.

You may also find that opening your mind to collaborations can also be a joy in music. I love working with other musicians from around the world and share files continuously.

It's over to you...

Wade Cornell
 
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OP
Profusia

Profusia

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Hi Thomas. I've just tried to send you a PM as I don't think the following should have been in public discussion. However your mail box is full and can not accept further messages, so here it is:

I'm very sorry if my comments seemed harsh. Hopefully you didn't miss the encouragement for your writing and singing. Writers and singers who are good are always in demand. Good to great sax players are plentiful, cheap, and not in demand. If you have professional ambitions (and it seems you do) then showcasing your strong points that are in demand is what will work. Nobody wants to know that you're still learning how to play sax so you should be given a break for not playing at a level that matches the rest of the track. Others hear what they hear and don't want or need excuses. Your sax playing (tone, attack, rhythmic feel) are not at a professional level. Leave your sax ego out of it and produce the best professional music that you can. Pats on the back from this site's peers are fine, but don't count when you are trying to sell music to hard headed music professionals.

I've given you a hard time over this. No matter, as I'm giving you a challenge so that you can get on with promoting the talent you have and eliminate the weakness that you seem so determined to kill your project with.

If you send me a MP3 of your track minus the saxes I will send back a WAV track of sax fills and solos. You will need to put a click track at the beginning for sync purposes. You can then edit it down to whatever you want, use it, or don't (I don't care).

This is NOT a big deal as I do lots of recording projects all the time and it takes very little time for me to do. I don't want or need credit for playing, don't care about if you sell it and will have no claim whatsoever. I don't care if you let people think it's you playing. The point is to help you establish yourself in the fields in which you shine.

You may also find that opening your mind to collaborations can also be a joy in music. I love working with other musicians from around the world and share files continuously.

It's over to you...

Wade Cornell
E-mail
cornell@orcon.net.nz
Wade, thanks for the offer. I appreciate it. I don't know why my mailbox was reporting as full as your mail has come through fine. I'm unable to do anything with the files this week but will give it some serious contemplation. Thanks again.
 

MikeMorrell

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Hi Wade, I'm quite happy with the fact that you disagree 100% with my feedback. I don't want to discuss this further but just want to note that it was never intended as an "assessment" (which I'm in no way qualified to make). It was simply my personal reaction as a listener to a song. To consider (or ignore) along with other feedback, including yours. It was intended positively and kindly and I didn't hear anything that I needed to "forgive". I'm glad that Thomas read my feedback in the spirit in which it was intended.

Mike.

PS. Joni Mitchell is one of favourite songwriters/singers and I do listen to the odd Rap song now and again. I have no problem with 'free' lyrics or rhythms.

I suggest that Mike should NEVER listen to Joni Mitchell if he doesn't like the bounce or flow of these words. You should also never listen to Rap if you like spaces or time to digest words. I'm going to disagree 100% with Mike's (in depth) assessment. Maybe it's too easy for sax players who don't possess a convincing professional delivery to lack critical ears for their instrument of choice? We may also wish to be more forgiving and kind since we're mostly in the same boat here?

We are no longer in the time of Rogers and Heart, or Gershwin and Gershwin. It's the 21st Century and strict rules don't apply. What matters still is singing in tune, and delivery with feeling and style. This is the strength of this piece. Good imagery and delivery.

Could it be better if accents were to hit critical words ? Maybe, but that's very minor compared to instrumental solos that are weak. The voice has drive and panache, the instrumental parts do not. Critical assessment (for me) isn't about "nit picking" it's what are the big issues if you're assessing the whole. If I were a record producer hearing this with an ear for what parts of this would I buy... my answer would be to hire the singer and fire the sax player.
 

TheScenario

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Hey Thomas, You continue being brave!

For what it's worth I liked the song. Agree with most people that the vocals are nice. Suit the vibe of the song well. The tenor sax sounds fine to my ears. Again it fit's the laid back vibe of the guy travelling the globe. 'No rush - lots to see when globetrotting'.

I think the Soprano sounds like the weakest member only becasue it's not following the chords as closely as it should. I think that little bridge/chord progression is a little strained and possibly the bass/keyboards aren't really presenting the chord properly, and they're quite complex, which makes the Soprano sound like the naughty boy. Hence I think you struggle to get settled. Should probably chuck a guitar in that break. So, it's not your playing per se, I think you've got some difficult and awkward chords.

Other than that, I think it's a really fine effort. Great overall sound. Reminds me of Mike Flowers. Groovy Baby!
 

Halfers

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I don't have anything constructive to add to the discussion, but I'm intrigued where you get the inspiration from? There's an understated old fashioned-ness to the song. Sort of brings to mind Peter Skellern with the playfulness of Neil Hannon. Very interesting.
 
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Profusia

Profusia

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Hey Thomas, You continue being brave!

For what it's worth I liked the song. Agree with most people that the vocals are nice. Suit the vibe of the song well. The tenor sax sounds fine to my ears. Again it fit's the laid back vibe of the guy travelling the globe. 'No rush - lots to see when globetrotting'.

I think the Soprano sounds like the weakest member only becasue it's not following the chords as closely as it should. I think that little bridge/chord progression is a little strained and possibly the bass/keyboards aren't really presenting the chord properly, and they're quite complex, which makes the Soprano sound like the naughty boy. Hence I think you struggle to get settled. Should probably chuck a guitar in that break. So, it's not your playing per se, I think you've got some difficult and awkward chords.

Other than that, I think it's a really fine effort. Great overall sound. Reminds me of Mike Flowers. Groovy Baby!
Hey TS (I don't know your name), thanks so much for listening and feeding back.

Yes definitely got the message on the sop solo and will be reworking it, at the very least, or replacing it completely. Yes I almost always find my own bridges difficult to improvise over.

Ha, just checked out a couple of Mike Flowers videos. Wonderful stuff and wish I could sing like him. Poking fun at himself way more than I ever meant to. I suppose I associate more with Post Modern Jukebox than that Austin Powers kind of vibe, although I started writing my first album project way before I heard of PMJ and am really just writing whatever comes out, but often with people like Cole Porter in mind (not saying I ever get anywhere close to him of course). Many thanks indeed for the encouragement.
 
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Profusia

Profusia

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I don't have anything constructive to add to the discussion, but I'm intrigued where you get the inspiration from? There's an understated old fashioned-ness to the song. Sort of brings to mind Peter Skellern with the playfulness of Neil Hannon. Very interesting.
Hey Halfers, thanks very much - I kind of get the Peter Skellern thing. I hadn't thought of Neil Hannon, but yeah I can see where you're coming from there too. As for inspiration - who knows?! Where does anyone's come from? I usually write a melody, and then figure out the chords I think support it. The melody often suggests a kind of first lyrical line which becomes the working title, and then influences the rest of the lyrics. For this one the working title was "If you've never seen" as it fitted the first line. Then I drew upon holidays I'd been on, and a bucket list of ones I'd like to go on, and added in a few extra references where needed to conform to the pattern of rhyme that had come out. I guess the song "You Belong To Me" (Jo Stafford) was also a littler bit of an influence. The last line was "Please make my dream come true" but then I changed it to "I want to travel with you" and suddenly thought that would make a better title. Job done. All pretty organic really and certainly not planned out.
 
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Profusia

Profusia

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Just an update: For now I've decided to replace the soprano solo with soprano playing melody. In time I may review this again but I can live with the tenor solo and intro as is and whilst the sop playing is still far from perfect I'm happy that it's an expression of me. Updated version is at the following link should anyone want a listen...


P.S. Because I've update the file on Songtradr, the original link in the opening post now goes to this new version, and I can't edit the original CafeSaxophone post above any more to make that clear. Songtradr also don't let me link directly to alternative versions but the original version is still there on the Songtradr account and accessible via the above link (indirectly). Sorry for any confusion,
 
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