Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


It rarely happens that a tune gets stuck in my head to such an extent that I get sick of it, but it happened on vacation at my parents’ last week. The sad thing is, the tune that drove me sickly was one I wrote! The day before leaving Seattle, I made up a melody for this poem that I posted here on August 5th, and all the time I was home I hummed it. (Home! Seattle is my home too.) And one day I got sick of it. I like it again now, but I remember that feeling.

I played and sang it for my mom. She said it sounded sad. And it does -- it’s melancholy. But the poem is about mortality, right?

My friend Jay once told me that Michael Stipe composes the words and melodies of some of REM’s songs and then sings them a cappella to his bandmates, who then harmonize the song & come up with accompaniment. Since he told me that, I’ve written a few songs that way, when I’ve had words I wanted to set to music. Just work on a melody without guitar or piano. It’s an interesting process. When I figure out the chords afterward, they almost always end up being fancier than is usual for me -- major sevenths and suspended 4ths and diminished chords and the like.

With this “Gull Lake” poem, the first few dips in the well came up with blatant Tin Pan Alley steals from Nat King Cole’s repertoire. I’m not aware of the final tune being a lift. I haven’t finalized the chords yet. I’m thinking of sending the melody to Jay, to see what harmonies he comes up with.

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