Posts Tagged music

Three more Hallelujahs


You might have noticed that Joey and I have been writing original songs and new versions of existing songs set to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Here’s a playlist of 24 Hallelujah videos we’ve recorded so far (including one of Joey singing part of the original in a choir.) We have many more lyrics waiting to be sung. We started writing these after getting the song stuck in our heads from hearing Beth Kinderman’s ‘Stop Covering Hallelujah‘ at MarsCon 2019. The day after that MarsCon we went to the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota, in formalwear, because it’s a ball.

Byron wearing a black hat, black jacket with white shirt and red tie, and khaki pants, me wearing a long black dress and a tiara, and Joey wearing a black suit with a white shirt, all standing in front of a giant twine ball, seen through the glass of a pagoda. There is much snow on the ground.

While talking to our hitchhiker ‘Bernie’ (actually Byron) back at the MarsCon hotel, we realised that ‘Minnesota’ scans to ‘Hallelujah’, so I decided to write a Hallelujah version of Weird Al’s song, The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota. I did so a few days after JoCo Cruise 2019 ended.

At MarsCon 2020, we found ourselves again in the song circle at Beth’s Space Oddity room party, so I convinced Joey to sing the Biggest Ball of Twine Hallelujah, but then I was unexpectedly recruited to sing a verse, which I think I did terribly, and then we skipped the last few. Here’s that performance:

And here are the full lyrics:

I had two weeks vacation due
From Big Roy’s Heating, Pipes and Flue
Asked kids at dinner where they’d like to go to
They made their choice as noodles twirled
Of anywhere in this great big world
The biggest ball of twine in Minnesota
Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota

Next day we loaded up the car
With wieners, taters, rhubarb pie
And rolled out in our 53 DeSoto
Picked up a guy as children fussed
His sign had said “Twine ball or bust”
The biggest ball of twine in Minnesota
Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota

We could not wait to see the twine
We only stopped when we were buyin’
More wieners and a diet chocolate soda
We sang for the 27th time that day
When we saw a sign that showed the way
To the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota
Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota

As sun was setting in the sky
Before our unbelieving eyes
A shrine beneath a makeshift twine pagoda
To see that huge majestic sphere
I had to pop myself a beer
the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota
Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota

Just who’s he trying to impress
There’s no bridge guiding to a guess
O, Twine Ball Man it seems we hardly knew ya
It’s a strange and what-on-earthly thing
Some twenty one thousand pounds of string
It’s a twisted and a ballsy hallelujah
hardly knew ya, Hallelujah, hardly knew ya, hallelujah.

I wept with joy before the ball
I bet if we unrolled it all
It’d reach right out to Fargo, North Dakota
“That’s what our country’s all about”
But then the henchmen threw us out
Of the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota
Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota

We slept a night at Twine Ball Inn
Next morning, headed home again
But I can’t think where else I’d rather go to
We didn’t want to leave; that’s clear
I think that we’ll be back next year
At the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota
Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota

When Beth Kinderman played her song in concert later at MarsCon, she flattered Joey and me with a special dispensation to continue singing Hallelujah.

A few days after I got back home, it was Joey’s birthday, so I sang a birthday Hallelujah I’d been planning ever since my own birthday. I used Joey’s Sore Throat Hallelujah as a backing track, simply by playing it on my iPad while I sang. I think I did a better job on this one, but still felt pretty uncomfortable with the high notes:

Lyrics:

Today’s the day we celebrate
recurrence of a great first date;
it’s Joey-left-the-womb-and-came-to-Earth day
and made it better than before;
I hope you’ll stay for many more,
so I can keep on singing happy birthday.

Now, four days into JoCo Cruise, COVID-19 was declared to be a pandemic, so by the time I got home, social distancing, quarantine, and self-isolation was the hot new thing. I got enough groceries to survive and then stayed strictly inside my apartment for 14 days to make sure I hadn’t picked anything up on the cruise or in the four airports I travelled through afterward.

I also wrote lyrics for an ‘isolation’ Hallelujah. But Joey had seen my birthday Hallelujah, and somehow become convinced that I could sing Hallelujahs all by myself. So we worked out a key I was more comfortable singing it in (A, in particular) and instead of singing it for me, Joey sent a backing track in that key and got me to do it myself. I happened to record it while still in costume from an online open mic I’d participated in, so at least nobody will know it was me if I sang badly.

Lyrics:

It follows a logistic curve.
It’s serious, and we observe
a median of five-day incubation,
so even if you’re symptom-free,
and so are all the folks you see,
please stay home if you can in isolation.
Isolation, isolation, isolation, isolation.

Since then, I’ve been uploading more videos from JoCo Cruise — I’ve just about finished uploading the entire land concert at Santo Domingo. I performed a few other things on the cruise (and one other song at MarsCon) but I’ll post about them when all the relevant videos are up.

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The Impossible Journey (a song)


With The Terrible Trivium being a little too tedious for the judges’ tastes, The Quantifiers were eliminated from round 2 of SpinTunes #16, but the competition encourages ‘shadow’ entries from people not competing, so we wrote a song for the next round anyway. The challenge was:

Write an uplifting song to sing for a Graduation, Dedication, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Funeral, Baptism, or similar event.

We decided to continue writing songs about The Phantom Tollbooth. Joey came up with the idea of writing a song for the ceremony at the end of the book celebrating the protagonists’ rescue of Rhyme and Reason. I thought we could recap the events of the book in such a way that the lyrics could also be interpreted to be about any celebration of somebody’s hard-won achievements. Here’s the song we ended up with:

Here are the rest of the entries:

We got the challenge on Saturday morning (in my timezone), with the deadline being the following Sunday, and the next Thursday we were both flying to Minnesota for MarsCon 2020. Usually I start off by writing a full draft of the lyrics over the weekend, and then I sit back while Joey writes music for it, sings it, creates instrumentals, and mixes the recording. We didn’t want to take time out of MarsCon mixing a song, so I thought we’d probably end up recruiting some of the musicians at MarsCon to perform a live version.

Instead, while we were discussing it over videochat on Saturday morning, Joey immediately recorded a trumpet tune and sent it to me. That afternoon, I sent lyrics to that tune as a chorus, and suggested writing verses abstractly describing the things the characters had fought through. I planned to read the book on the plane so I could have the lyrics written by the time we met in Minnesota.

That night before I went to bed, I sent Joey a recording of myself singing a couple of possible lines for the verses, in a tune I’d made up based on the chorus tune. On Sunday evening, Joey sent back a recording of my chorus lyrics with extra trumpets, just as you hear it in the final song.

On Monday, I felt like I was way behind in my part of the song, so that evening, I skimmed through the book and wrote a line for each scene, unrhymed, and a final eight resonably rhymed lines about the scene where Rhyme and Reason were rescued. I arranged the unrhymed lines in quatrains with the fourth line of each a little shorter, and choruses between them.

By Tuesday morning, Joey had already recorded a great ‘quick and dirty’ version of the song, with more instrumentation than our previous songs had. It had fewer choruses than I’d imagined, and the last four rhymed lines were cut. I submitted that one as a ‘safety’ in case we didn’t manage to finish a better recording, but I also pointed out some small things which could be improved.

On Thursday morning, I got up at something like 4a.m to go to the airport, and Joey had sent an updated recording, so I quickly updated our Spintunes submission before getting ready to leave. That was our final entry, and I like it more than the songs we spent the full week on. I probably should have taken the time to fix the slightly shorter lines that were once at the ends of quatrains though — one of the judges commented on how they didn’t fit properly into the tune.

The final four lines, in case you are interested, were:

Your every action has a tiny effect
To never fail would be a sorrow
What one day seems useless will later effect
the wonderful secrets of tomorrow

‘The wonderful secrets of tomorrow’ being a direct quote from the book.

The prompt for the fourth round of Spintunes was:

Write a song about something that seemed a good idea at the time, but ended very badly. Maybe you should have given it a little more thought…

We did not submit a shadow for it, since we were busy on JoCo Cruise (and yes, we considered writing one about going on a cruise during a pandemic), but here are others’ entries:

The world was quite different when we got back to port, with all future cruises and many flights being cancelled, but as far as I know we all made it home, and nobody on our cruise had the virus. I’m now staying at home, like most of you, and uploading my 29 hours or so of JoCo Cruise videos — so far, the New Monkey Orientation and part of the first Red Team concert.  Subscribe to my channel if you want to see the rest, but be warned that there will be a lot of uploads over the coming months, so they might flood your recommendations or notifications.

And now for something completely different: I’ve also uploaded a guided tour of Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis, recorded a few days before the cruise:

I recommend watching this immediately after the full pre-show video I uploaded earlier, if you haven’t seen that already. Joey and I also sang a few things at a song circle at MarsCon, but perhaps I’ll put those in a different post.

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The Terrible Trivium (another song!)


With Dining in Dictionopolis, Joey and I came eighth over all in Spintunes #16 round 1, and with all the rankings close to the extreme ends, were apparently Marmite for judges. This means The Quantifiers were indeed qualifiers, making it to round two of Spintunes #16, though we would probably have written a song for this round anyway. The challenge was:

Your lyrics must prominently feature counting. How and what you count is up to you – you can count up or down, by ones, fives, tens, logarithmically, exponentially; you can count steps in a process, miles in a journey, hours in a day…

Which seemed like an invitation to stay in the Phantom Tollbooth universe, and sing about Digitopolis. We ended up writing about a scene from after Milo has visited Digitopolis, in which a demon known as The Terrible Trivium engages the protagonists in easy but worthless tasks, in order to keep them from their goal. As before, I wrote most of the words (though Joey suggested the scene) and Joey did the music, most of the singing (I sang some additional vocals), and the arranging. Here’s the song:

Click through to see the lyrics or download the song for free. Milo ends up using the magic staff (a pencil) he got in Digitopolis to calculate that the tasks would take them 837 years to finish, so they escape thanks to the power of arithmetic, although that part didn’t make it into the song.

The rest of the songs submitted for this challenge are in this album:

Commenters at the listening party surmised that we would end up writing a Phantom Tollbooth musical, which is probably the case, although despite one person’s suggestion, it probably won’t be on ice.

The next challenge will be due while we’re at MarsCon, so rather than spending a lot of that time mixing a song, we might recruit some of the musicians there and record our song live. I’ve already put my copy of The Phantom Tollbooth in my carryon luggage.

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Dining in Dictionopolis (a song!)


Joey Marianer and I knew that it would be ridiculous to enter into SpinTunes #16, what with the deadlines for later rounds falling just after times when we’d be busy at MarsCon or on cruises, so obviously we entered. I’ve been passively following SpinTunes and its participants since before it even started, with its inspiration Masters of Song Fu, and this is the first time I’ve teamed up with someone musical enough to actually join in the fun. We called ourselves The Quantifiers, based on what we wore to MathsJam 2019, and filled in the rest of the entry form with the first things that came to mind. We continued to foolishly use the first things to come to mind as the contest started.

The first challenge was, “Write a song based on a scene from a book or movie”, so I thought of one of my favourite books which Joey has also read, and one of my favourite scenes from that book, and started coming up with lyric ideas while Joey was still asleep in another time zone. At some point Joey wrote some music and made a first recording while I was asleep. Joey also contributed lyric ideas, and I contributed music ideas (and one line of singing) but mostly the words are mine and the music and singing are Joey’s.

The book is The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, and if you like puns, you would love it. The song is about the scene where the protagonist, Milo, is invited to a banquet lunch with King Azaz the Unabridged, of Dictionopolis. As guest of honour, Milo must choose the menu, and he gets exactly what he asks for.

Click through to see the lyrics or download the song for free.

The rest of the songs submitted for this challenge are in this album:

I haven’t listened to them all yet, but I’m listening to them in the SpinTunes listening party right now and following along with the comments. The actual listening party for this round starts at around 53:10. The other songs have more instrumentation than ours, and it generally sounds like the artists have more experience with this kind of thing, which they do, but one commenter described our song as “A less trippy early Floyd”, so I’ll take it. I don’t know what possessed Joey to do this with me, but my main goals were to have fun making the song and make a few Phantom Tollbooth fans smile, and we did both. If this inspires you to reread the book, consider reading it in another language or in another version of English — I know there are a few sections that are noticeably different between the edition I have and the one my nemesis in the US has.

If you’re familiar with The Phantom Tollbooth, you might think it a bit weird for two people dressed as mathematical symbols to write a song based in Dictionopolis, but we’re both into maths and linguistics, so let’s just say I’m the Princess of Sweet Rhyme and Joey is the Princess of Pure Reason, although I believe this song was actually edited in Cubase.

Here’s hoping we have just as much fun in the next round, whether we’re still in the competition (in which case, The Quantifiers will be Qualifiers!) or we just decide to submit a shadow entry.

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Things I forgot to blog about, part n+1: Performances (ft. Joey Marianer)


After MathsJam, Joey Marianer came back with me to Vienna, and we performed at Open Phil, as we do. We didn’t perform on radio this time, but Joey did record something at Skystudio (another Phil production!) which I’ll blog about when it comes out. Anyway, we started with I Love Your Body, the one that I actually sing in. The first verse is a poem I wrote about not treating someone’s body like a piece of meat (which Joey set to music) and the second verse is a poem I wrote about treating someone’s body like a piece of meat (which Joey set to music).

Then Joey sang a freshly-written Hallelujah which is largely irrelevant to people on the internet in January, so I won’t embed it here. I then recited my mathematical love poem ≥3, while Joey just sat there awkwardly, because we really don’t have any more duets:

I’d previously performed this one at Café Concerto and then on JoCo Cruise in 2017, but probably only once or twice since then.

We finished the evening with Joey’s musical rendition of my poem They Might Not Be Giants, while I stood there awkwardly, because I’m good at that:

Joey was reading from the copy of Chalkdust on the music stand, and got a couple of words wrong, perhaps because of the relation between distance and print size, but you can read the original words and hear Joey singing them elsewhere. I still need to add closed captions to these videos, but until I do, the words to the poems and songs are in the video descriptions and at some of the links in this post.

My next ‘things I forgot to blog about’ post will be about the NanoRhymo (a tiny rhyming poem every day, not to be confused with NaNoWriMo) which I made a halfhearted attempt at last November, but picked up again in January. I’m currently still posting them daily on my Twitter, but I’ll collect them all here, as I did with the previous NanoRhymo and GloPoWriMo.

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Pico, emacs, ed, vi (Pico and Sepulveda parody lyrics)


The following are parody lyrics to the song Pico and Sepulveda, about text editors. I imagine that if someone sang them, I’d want to make a music video consisting of the lyrics shown in each text editor in time with the song.

pico, emacs, ed, vi,
pico, emacs, ed, vi…

SublimeText
mcedit
or Notepad…
++

xedit,
TextEdit
or Notepad…
++

You can use BBEdit
or an IDE,
EVE or Atom or ex.

TeachText never vexed
but for NeXT I want to feel
perplexed and try escaping out of

pico, emacs, ed, vi…

to NotePad…
++

The editor you can quit!

This idea popped into my head when I saw yet another thread of people discussing their favourite text editors. Writing these lyrics did nothing to get them out of my head, so let’s see if putting them here works.

Pico is the editor I typically use if I must use a command-line editor, because it’s fairly easy to use even when I haven’t used it for a while and don’t remember any secrets, and most importantly, it’s easy to exit. I usually use GUI text editors though. If I’ve left out your favourite editor, just paste these lyrics into said editor and edit them.

In other news, I’m making a halfhearted effort at NanoRhymo over on Twitter… ostensibly a short, rhyming poem for each day of November, but I started late and have only done 16 so far, plus this one, all in a thread:

Also, my poem They Might Not Be Giants is in issue 10 of Chalkdust magazine, just in time for me to go to the MathsJam Annual Gathering this weekend. I’ll bring a few larger-than-usual posters of it in case anyone wants them.

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May the Fourth Be With You


I’ve published both of these things before, but not both on May the Fourth. Here’s a video of the poem that I wrote about Star Wars before I saw it, along with a wrap-up of what I thought about the poem after seeing Star Wars:

And here’s a musical version of that poem, set to music and sung by Joey Marianer:

I’ve just noticed that the automatically-generated closed captions on that one say ‘sorry Bingley Lloyd’ instead of ‘stars were being made’, which is hilarious, but if you’re hard of hearing you’d be better off reading the text of the poem here instead. I don’t think I’ve added proper closed captions to my video of it either yet, sorry; I should have thought about this before today.

May the force be with Peter Mayhew always.

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My Performances at MarsCon 2019


I’ve been going to MarsCon, mainly for the Dementia Track of comedy music concerts,  whenever it’s convenient for me to get there before or after the JoCo Cruise. I’m a fan of most of the acts from The FuMP and other sites, and have contributed some of my own creations to The FuMP Sideshow.

This year, I finally had the nerve and the organisation to ask to perform at MarsCon in the two concerts where people not doing a main stage set can perform. In the FuMP Jukebox concert, where artists can each perform one of their original songs, I sang ‘Why I Perform at Open Mics‘, slightly censored as it was a daytime show:

I didn’t have the best breath control, as is often the case (and I was cold, which didn’t help) but I didn’t make any major mistakes, and Devo Spice complimented my rhymes later, so I’m going to count that as a huge success.

Then, during the Dementia Smackdown concert, where each artist covers another artist’s song, I sang the only cover song I know how to do — Chicken Monkey Duck, by Mike Phirman. Mike had kindly provided me with the accompanying video without his vocals, the same one he uses for his performances, so that I could perform it at open mics, so I used that at MarsCon as well.

Perhaps I should work on not staying at the back of the stage next to the exit, but otherwise, I did okay. Since this made me officially a performer in the Dementia Track, I was included in the Dementia Smackdown Wrestling. This is a simulated wrestling match between Dementia Track artists put together by JP Tuesday — my only input was providing a picture to model my avatar after. I won’t reveal how I did — watch it and see!

I also got a snazzy certificate for participating in the Dementia Track, which is currently tucked away safely in my luggage. All in all, it was a great experience.

After that I visited The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Kennedy Space Center, and of course, the JoCo Cruise, where the real Mike Phirman was a performer, for the third time — and if you think my performance of Chicken Monkey Duck was impressive, just wait till you see his sets on the cruise! I’ll upload my footage of it, and perhaps recount my other adventures, some time after I get home; I’m currently visiting the San Francisco Bay Area for a few more days.

In unrelated news, taking a job at a too-small-to-not-fail company has once again bitten me in the duck, so I’m looking for work again. If you’re at a reasonably stable company that needs a programmer with mathematics and linguistics training who can also sometimes write and perform weird things, let me know!

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With or Without U (U2 Parody)


Here are some parody lyrics to U2’s With or Without You which I wrote in response to a facebook comment back in May. It’s about time I shared them:

The contours of paramours
The velour of troubadours
They’re spelled with u
But in colour, labour day
with far-harbour ardour, neighbours say
They will write, without u
Write -or without u
Write -or without u
Not behaviour to condemn
Who has honour, humour them
Latinate roots for u
Spelled -or without u
Spelt -or without o-u-r
These are spelled
With or without u
And your dialect’s okay
And your spelling is okay
And you spell
And you spell
And your spelling is okay
My armour’s breached
There is no errour in yor ways
just flavour and splendour
And can I lend a vowel?
And your dialect’s okay
And your spelling is okay
And you spell
And you spell
And your spelling is okay
With or without u
With or without o-u-r
These are spelled
With or without u
O… O-U, O-R
With or without u
With or without o-u-r
These are spelt
With or without u
With or without u

Enjoy it with or without U2’s version playing along. I’d like to say that I used my Masters degree in linguistics to write this, but really, everything came from the -or, -our section of the Wikipedia page on American and British English spelling differences. I threw in a few other spelling variations for fun.

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season. For those who celebrate Christmas, vicariously or otherwise, here’s a playlist of Christmas-related things I’ve uploaded to YouTube, and the tag of Christmas-related blog posts I’ve written.

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I sang on stage 😳


In the last post I mentioned that Joey Marianer and I sang ‘I Love Your Body‘ on the Open Phil Broadcast on Radio Orange. During that interview we promised to perform it at the Open Phil open mic that was coming up, so we did:

You can skip to 6:48 if you don’t want to hear me explaining who Joey is, pretending I’m not thrilled that he sets my words to music, and talking about my YouTube channel and Jonathan Coulton’s transition from code monkey to internet superstar, followed by Joey challenging Lill to a laugh-off and finding good positions for the microphones with help from Grey Sweater Guy.

I set the stage before this with another slightly disturbing love poem, Don’t Slip on the Ice, but it’s not the first time I’ve performed that one on stage, or even the best performance of it on video, so you’ll have to click on the link if you want to see it.

After we finished this song, I cajoled Joey into singing The Elements by Tom Lehrer, which he had previously planned to sing but didn’t feel up to doing in the moment. He got me back for that by getting me to sing it with him when it turned out he was indeed not quite up to it in the moment:

This is one of those songs, like Chicken Monkey Duck (which, technically, I have also sung on stage, but it feels more like a rap), where you can amaze people just by knowing the lyrics, so confidence in singing ability (of which I have very little) is not essential, though it is quite difficult to sing fast enough.

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