Friday, 13 October 2017

Subsongs by subsong: subsong

In which I write about the songs on the subsongs album, in order, song by subsong.


I don't want to write too much about the content of the lyric because I think it is self-evidently a reflexive song meditating on its own existential condition. The song speaks of itself, it asks where it will go, and then sets out a number of ideas, with a little semantic play around the materiality of a song, this song. It is, in one sense, the epitome of a 'subsong', in the sense that it is a song yet to reach complete form, it is yet to exist as a song. Of course this is an ironic conceit as it is, by the fact of being written, set to music and sung, already a song, has already become a song. So this is, by extension, an ironic conceit that underlies all of the songs on the album, if you take the title literally and consider it to be a collection of 'subsongs'.

The song started life with its melody, a simple sequence picked out on the guitar, and in musical terms goes little further than that. I wanted to keep it simple, strangely melancholic, as though there is melancholy in reflexivity. It was recorded live with voice and guitar, with some guitar overdubs. I made several recordings of the song, including one version with quite a lot of instrumentation, such as keyboards, bass and rhythm. The version I used for the album isn't necessarily the best of them, it seems to me that in this case that's not so much the point, this is a song that should always be in progress, never definitive...

I included some 'field recordings' in this version, in particular a recording of a cellist playing on the riverside footpath under the south side of Blackfriars Bridge in London. By chance the cello melody is in the same key as my song and therefore provided a found cello solo. I had intended to include more such 'found' recordings on the album, and spent some time recording musicians playing in public, or publicly audible, on my phone or a Zoom recorder secreted under my jacket. In the end I only used one other recording, on 'Garage/Band', which we will get to later.

Listen to the song and read the lyrics.

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