Posts Tagged music
Joey Marianer (to whom, and I cannot stress this enough, I am 💖married❣️) was asked to sing some computer-related songs at a company all-hands meeting, and chose The Bad Coder’s Favourite Things (one of several parodies I’ve written of ‘My Favourite Things’) as one of them. It’s the third one, after Joey’s own ‘Inbox Zero’ (a new addition to our growing list of Hallelujah parodies) and Les Barker’s ‘Reinstalling Windows’ (a parody of ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’.)
In other news, we’ll be at MathsJam Annual Gathering in November, which will be a hybrid in-person (in the UK) and virtual event this year. If you like maths, or if you think you don’t like maths but want to find out why people do, or even if you just like parody songs about maths, and the time zone and/or location work for you, I highly recommend joining.
Also, surprise! I thought I’d uploaded all my JoCo Cruise 2022 footage, but I’d somehow missed the Monday concert, with Jim Boggia and Paul and Storm. You can watch it as a single video or a playlist of songs. This means I’ve uploaded more than 22 hours from that cruise, all-up.
Remember that time that Joey Marianer and I got engaged (to each other)? Well, a while after that, we also got married, as is typical for engaged couples. It was just a small ceremony in a courthouse, followed by a small gathering with two large cheesecakes. Here’s a very short video synopsis of the wedding:
I just edited the closed captions, and noticed that YouTube’s autocaptions thought the judge said, ‘congratulations youtube and you guys get a blog it’s okay’ when in fact he said, ‘Congratulations, you two. And you guys can applaud; it’s okay!’ Anyway, that video has been gathering congratulations on YouTube for a while, so now you guys get a blog about it.
Then we ate cheesecake with a few friends, and Joey did this:
If you don’t understand what just happened, here’s a video that will explain it.
A few days and two negative COVID tests later, we boarded the JoCo Cruise. On cosplay day we cosplayed each other:
This was mainly to facilitate changing into our pants for the Fancy Pants Parade. I haven’t found a video that shows us in the parade itself, but here’s one of us practising last year, when we thought the cruise might be virtual again so we’d need a video:
Then two days later, all decked out for formal night, we did a show, which was also quite geared towards things we could only do while physically together. I structured the setlist to tell the story of how our relationship developed through collaborating on songs.
If you prefer, there’s also a playlist of individual pieces. I even made a playlist of the videos mentioned in the show, complete with the comments in which I might have been flirting with Joey. Some of the poems and songs are on my album, one is on our album of SpinTunes entries, some are on the playlist of Hallelujahs, but three of them have never been published anywhere before.
I’ve wanted to do a poetry show on the cruise for a while, but was always afraid of having to miss out on other events that were scheduled at the same time as it. I did a show on the 2021 virtual cruise where that wasn’t so much of a concern, and people seemed to like it, so an in-person sequel seemed like a good idea. Only, with Joey’s help, it was not merely a poetry show, but also a musical show!
My fears were somewhat realised; this show was scheduled opposite the reception for frequent cruisers, which most of the people who know me well enough to attend my show were eligible to go to. But the other thing those people know is that I film every event I’m at (so far I’ve uploaded 12 hours, 48 minutes of video from the 2022 cruise, and I’m only up to Wednesday afternoon), so they could safely miss the show and watch it now! We got through the setlist with a little time to spare, so we even got to attend the reception briefly.
Well, in 2021, among other things, I released an iOS app and a poetry album, wrote an article about accessibility, tech edited three articles about iOS development, won my second Fancy Pants Parade, did a poetry show, wrote a macOS app to find words that look or sound like they’re related but aren’t and a script to make etymological family trees, found a job, lost a job, found a job again, and finally buried a job in soft peat for three months and recycled it as firelighters (that last bit is an exaggeration. Burning jobs to keep warm is not advisable.)
Here’s another exciting thing that happened that I didn’t mention on this blog. During a brief lull in the apocalypse, Joey Marianer came to visit, and we got engaged… to each other! We had of course already discussed this previously, and I wasn’t expecting a song and dance to be made about it, but there was nevertheless a song, as follows:
It’s a parody of the “Weird Al” Yankovic original, “Good Enough for Now“. I find metal rings uncomfortable and a bit dangerous, so Joey got me a silicone engagement ring with a ring on it. This is a much cooler idea than the off-the-shelf ring I got Joey which has flowers on it and no explicit mathematical concepts.
The pretense for recording that was that immediately beforehand, we’d sung some words I’d written to a tune that came to Joey in a dream:
Joey happened to be here while my friend Phil got married (a year later than planned) and joined a group of Phil’s vaccinated and tested friends to celebrate in Tenerife. So here we are walking along the beach looking all couple-y.
I’ll eventually put up videos of some things we saw in Tenerife. After we got back from Tenerife but before Joey went home, we recorded a few short videos in which we are exceedingly cute at each other while demonstrating some linguistic concepts. Here we explore the differences in our accents:
And here we demonstrate how personal deixis can change the meaning of a sentence depending on context:
So, plague willing, we’ll get married in February, have multiple wedding-adjacent cake-eating parties in various real and virtual places over the next several years, and at some point during that time I’ll get the appropriate visa so we can move in together and hopefully only get on each other’s c-tactile nerves.
And now for some unrelated things to look forward to on my YouTube channel. The above videos were shot on my iPhone, which was my first experience with 4K HDR. I’m not sure if editing that on my mid-2014 MacBook Pro did the HDR justice.
However, I bought a new camera recently which can do 4K, and also has several other features which will make recording concerts (and indeed, entire cruises full of concerts) easier — no more stopping to get around a 4GB file size limit, or change batteries, or change SD cards. I won’t generally film entire concerts in 4K due to the space requirements and likelihood of the camera overheating and shutting down, but it’s a nice feature to have for other things. I’ve also ordered the new MacBook Pro, which will have a better display for viewing and editing such video.
I planned to film as much as possible of a concert here in Vienna in 4K, just to see how long I could film continuously in 4K if I took all the measures I knew about to prevent overheating. The concert had to be cancelled due to lockdown, so instead, I recorded myself talking about how I got to work at CERN, as a sequel to the video about getting a laptop from Woz and going to a concert with him. I recorded in 4K for 36 minutes nonstop (which is longer than my old camera can record nonstop even in 1080p) before I ran out of things to say, so I’d call that a successful test. When the new MacBook arrives, I’ll edit that video and hopefully put it online before flying away to get married and (insert SARS-CaVeat here) record an entire cruise full of concerts. I hope I remember how to record and process an entire cruise full of concerts after a year off, and don’t make too many mistakes with the new camera.
I’ve been going on the JoCo Cruise since the ‘shadow cruise‘ was just an iPhone handbell choir. As it developed into something people could book spaces and times for, and have on a schedule that packed 26 days of events into a week, I participated in a few friends‘ shadow events, but hesitated to run my own in case it conflicted with something else I really wanted to do, or had me nervous or practising instead of enjoying other events.
This year, the cruise went virtual, and my excuses went out the window. I registered to do a poetry show, promising that I would ‘recite some poems that rhyme, some that don’t, and maybe even sing a few things. Topics may include science, love, poop, and life.’ I came to realise I could not only read my poems from my screen to avoid any nervousness about remembering them, but I could also share my screen. There are projectors on the cruise, but they are in short supply, so I wouldn’t request one for just one or two poems in a shadow event. On the virtual cruise, I could share whatever I wanted, including things from the internet, which wouldn’t be reliably available on a ship. And I could use props that I wouldn’t bother to bring on a cruise. So I did! I made slides for poems that worked best with visual aids, I showed off my rhyming dictionary, and I closed with a cover song that requires a video. And of course, I recorded everything. Here’s my show!
I also performed a few poems at the open mic — hastily-adapted versions of a poem I wrote for the Vienna open mic Open Phil, and the one I opened my show with about the differences between the real cruise and the virtual one. Joey Marianer and Phil Conrad (who also hosts Open Phil) hosted the open mic, so the open mic videos are on Joey’s channel.
It sure was weird watching Joey upload videos, when usually I’m spending most of my free time from March to May processing videos from the cruise. On the subject of cruise videos, the videos of the official events will allegedly only be up until May 1, so watch them while you can!
This year’s MathsJam Annual Gathering was virtual, and rather than singing maths-related parody songs together at the MathsJam Jam, we were encouraged to send videos of ourselves singing them. Sam Hartburn, who has written many lyrics for MathsJam Jam songs, offered to write custom song lyrics for one of the participants. I don’t recall whether this was for the best submission or one chosen at random, but in any case, Joey Marianer got the prize for a cover of Jonathan Coulton’s Mandelbrot Set.
Joey considered giving the prize away, since I already sometimes write lyrics that Joey sings, but instead decided to commission a variation on They Might Not Be Giants, a poem I wrote about science education which Joey set to music. The new version is about someone who has many offers of help to solve a puzzle, but finds satisfaction in solving it on their own.
A while later, TikTok was awash with collaborations on the Wellerman sea shanty, and Daniel Litt wrote a parody of it about elliptic curves. 〈 Berger | Dillon 〉 did a duet with it, and Joey then sang harmony. My only contribution to this one was editing Joey’s video into the others’, since we don’t have TikTok to do it for us. Neither of us knows much about what it’s about, but I bet many of the Wellerman singers don’t know much about the Weller brothers or tonguing either.
We won’t be putting to sea this year, of course, but the 2021 JoCo Cruise is free and virtual, and I am finally going to run a poetry show as a shadow event. Come join us!
I’m excited to discover a more recent viral TikTok is singing a sped-up version of Mike Phirman’s Chicken Monkey Duck! I’m not cool enough to be on TikTok, so I made sure to learn that song before it was cool, just so I wouldn’t surpass my coolness quota. Here’s a playlist of me singing Chicken Monkey Duck, some diagrams I made of the song, and an rtf of it using colours from my personal grapheme–colour synaesthesia, created using an app I wrote a while ago. And for completeness, here’s the Spanish version of it, Pollo Mono Pato, which I think is a bit harder to learn due to all the words having the same number of syllables.
On the subject of Mike Phirman, he’s just released a new album called Activity Books, and it’s great. I’m consistently impressed by how many of his songs do things that songs have rarely or never done before. For instance, Color by Number can probably detect grapheme–colour synaesthesia in young children, by causing them to throw tantrums about the incorrect colour associations. ‘Word Search / Vacuum’ makes me wish there were an alphabet song of the entire International Phonetic Alphabet.
In unrelated news, a while ago I requested a cover of K’s Choice’s song ‘America’ on the CamannWordsmith patreon. That Patreon post has now been made public. The track is also available on the brand new CamannWordsmith Bandcamp page, along with a whole lot of other covers that you can download for free. To bring this back around to relatedness again… CamannWordsmith and I are collaborating on something; watch this space to find out what!
I’ve developed a bit of a habit of recording entire concerts of musicians who don’t mind their concerts being recorded, splitting them into individual songs, and uploading them to my YouTube channel with copious notes in the video descriptions. My first upload was, appropriately, the band featured in the first image on the web, Les Horribles Cernettes, singing Big Bang. I first got enough camera batteries and SD cards to record entire concerts for the K’s Choice comeback concert in Dranouter in 2009, though the playlist is short, so perhaps I didn’t actually record that entire show.
I’ve also developed a habit of going on a week-long cruise packed with about 25 days of entertainment every year, and recording 30 or so hours of that entertainment. So my YouTube channel is getting a bit ridiculous. I currently have 2723 publicly-visible videos on my channel, and 2906 total videos — the other 183 are private or unlisted, either because they’re open mic or karaoke performances from JoCo Cruise and I’m not sure I have the performer’s permission to post them, or they’re official performances that we were requested to only share with people that were there.
I’ve been wondering just how much I’ve written in my sometimes-overly-verbose video descriptions over the years, and the only way I found to download all that metadata was using the YouTube API. I tested it out by putting a URL with the right parameters in a web browser, but it’s only possible to get the data for up to 50 videos at a time, so it was clear I’d have to write some code to do it.
Late Friday evening, after uploading my last video from JoCo Cruise 2020, I set to writing a document-based CoreData SwiftUI app to download all that data. I know my way around CoreData and downloading and parsing JSON in Swift, but haven’t had many chances to try out SwiftUI, so this was a way I could quickly get the information I wanted while still learning something. I decided to only get the public videos, since that doesn’t need authentication (indeed, I had already tried it in a web browser), so it’s a bit simpler.
By about 3a.m, I had all the data, stored in a document and displayed rather simply in my app. Perhaps that was my cue to go to bed, but I was too curious. So I quickly added some code to export all the video descriptions in one text file and all the video titles in another. I had planned to count the words within the app (using enumerateSubstrings byWords or enumerateTags, of course… we’re not savages! As a linguist I know that counting words is more complicated than counting spaces.) but it was getting late and I knew I wanted the full text for other things, so I just exported the text and opened it in Pages. The verdict:
- 2723 public videos
- 33 465 words in video titles
- 303 839 words in video descriptions
The next day, I wanted to create some word clouds with the data, but all the URLs in the video descriptions got in the way. I quite often link to the playlists each video is in, related videos, and where to purchase the songs being played. I added some code to remove links (using stringByReplacingMatches with an NSDataDetector with the link type, because we’re not savages! As an internet person I know that links are more complicated than any regex I’d write.) I found that Pages counts URLs as having quite a few words, so the final count is:
- At least 4 633 links (this is just by searching for ‘http’ in the original video descriptions, like a savage, so might not match every link)
- 267 567 words in video descriptions, once links are removed. I could almost win NaNoWriMo with the links from my video descriptions alone.
I then had my app export the publish dates of all the videos, imported them into Numbers, and created the histogram shown above. I actually learnt quite a bit about Numbers in the process, so that’s a bonus. I’ll probably do a deeper dive into the upload frequency later, with word clouds broken down by time period to show what I was uploading at any given time, but for now, here are some facts:
- The single day when I uploaded the most publicly-visible videos was 25 December 2017, when I uploaded 34 videos — a K’s Choice concert and a Burning Hell concert in Vienna earlier that year. I’m guessing I didn’t have company for Christmas, so I just got to hang out at home watching concerts and eating inexpertly-roasted potatoes.
- The month when I uploaded the most publicly-visible videos was April 2019. This makes sense, as I was unemployed at the time, and got back from JoCo Cruise on March 26.
So, onto the word clouds I cleaned up that data to make. I created them on wordclouds.com, because wordle has rather stagnated. Most of my video titles mention the artist name and concert venue and date, so some words end up being extremely common. This huge variation in word frequency meant I had to reduce the size from 0 all the way to -79 in order for it to be able to fit common words such as ‘Jonathan’. Wordclouds lets you choose the shape of the final word cloud, but at that scale, it ends up as the intersection of a diamond with the chosen shape, so the shape doesn’t end up being recognisable. Here it is, then, as a diamond:
The video descriptions didn’t have as much variation between word frequencies, so I only had to reduce it to size -45 to fit both ‘Jonathan’ and ‘Coulton’ in it. I still don’t know whether there are other common words that didn’t fit, because the site doesn’t show that information until it’s finished, and there are so many different words that it’s still busy drawing the word cloud. Luckily I could download an image of it before that finished. Anyway, at size -45, the ‘camera’ shape I’d hoped to use isn’t quite recognisable, but I did manage a decent ‘YouTube play button’ word cloud:
One weird fact I noticed is that I mention Paul Sabourin of Paul and Storm in video descriptions about 40% more often than I mention Storm DiCostanzo, and I include his last name three times as much. To rectify this, I wrote a song mentioning Storm’s last name a lot, to be sung to the tune of ‘Hallelujah’, because that’s what we do:
We’d like to sing of Paul and Storm.
It’s Paul we love to see perform.
The other member’s name’s the one that scans though.
So here’s to he who plays guitar;
let’s all sing out a thankful ‘Arrr!’
for Paul and Storm’s own Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo!
DiCostanzo, DiCostanzo, DiCostanzo, DiCostanzo
I’m sure I’ll download more data from the API, do some more analysis, and mine the text for haiku (if Haiku Detector even still runs — it’s been a while since I touched it!) later, but that’s enough for now!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.