Friday, June 12, 2009

Song Fu Challenge 2

The second Song Fu challenge is open for voting until a minute before midnight EST on Sunday night (June 14th). The challenge was to write a march. There were fewer entries this time than in the previous round, and several pieces had no lyrics. This round also produced some rather diverse entries.

My last song had ended up being too somber, and in a minor key, so before the challenge, I had decided I wanted to write something happy and funny in a major key. In the end, in order to get a happy and funny march with lyrics, I ended up turning to fantasy (though steampunk and sci-fi were alternative considerations), and writing a dwarven battle march. There's nothing here that's meant to be deep or meditative, just plain fun. The fictional setting gave me a framework that I could use to be as over-the-top as I had to be in order to get laughs, without actually addressing any real political issues. Other competitors may have had similar ideas, since there were a couple entries with marching robots, zombies and ninjas. To set up the situation, I posted the following comment with my song:
My entry, "Marching To Selador" is a traditional Dwarven Battle March, which has been translated and reconstructed by myself from the fragmentary remains of the original dwarvish runes. Little is known of dwarven music, so extensive scholarship was required to undertake the reconstruction. Due to the nature of dwarvish music, and especially the dwarven modes, which would sound quite foreign to our modern ears, certain artistic liberties were taken to convey the impression of a march to western audiences. For example, due to their stature, the dwarves would have actually used a much different tempo in their marches than what we are accustomed to. Where lyrics have been lost, they have been reconstructed based on knowledge of the Dwarves' widely-held socio-political views.
In addition to the traditional Sousa, I also listened to several Pre-Sousa marches, from the American Civil War. Marching Through Georgia was one that I specifically wanted to emulate. I also read a bit about Turkish Janissary Bands, which influenced the Turkish Marches of Mozart and Beethoven.

The name "Selador" is a reference to Tolkein's famous love for the sound of the English phrase "cellar door". Unfortunately, it made the dwarves in my song sound like they were door salesmen. The bridge modulates to the subdominant key, a technique which is common in Sousa marches, and presents a minor racial slur against elves, a dwarven "yo-mama" joke, and a reference to the fact that dwarven women are often said to have beards. The "piccolo" solo in the last chorus is, of course, deliberately reminiscent of Stars and Stripes Forever, and by extension, any traditional marches that use a fife. It was actually played on my Baroque flute, then pitch-shifted up an octave in software. Aside from that, the other instruments are 3 alto recorders, 3 melodicas, a sampled tuba, and various percussion (including two triangles). Alas, I have already sunken to the depths of using cheap sound effects and a "shout-along" chorus in an attempt to garner votes.

Here's the mp3 (link to mediafire): Marching To Selador (Traditional Dwarven March).mp3

And here are the lyrics:
Marching To Selador
(Traditional Dwarven March)

(Verse 1)
Fly the ancient banner, and sound the battle drum,
Sharpen up yer battle-axe, and put yer chain-mail on,
Line up in formation, boys, it's time to have some fun,
We're marching to Selador!

(Chorus)
Raise a shout, shout, shout, (HUZZAH!)
Shout for the dwarves!
Raise a louder shout for yer gold!
Watch the elves turn tail,
As the dwarves prevail,
We're marching to Selador!

Raise a shout, shout, shout, (HUZZAH!)
Shout for yer homes!
Raise a louder shout for yer ale!
And your axe will hew,
Every elf in two,
We're marching to Selador!

(Bridge)
We all know elves look pretty weird,
Their facial hair has all been cleared,
Even elven men,
Have a hairless chin,
There's more hair in yer mother's beard!

(Verse 2)
Burn the elven countryside, and chop down all their trees,
Watch the elven arrows all get caught up in the breeze,
When they come in melee we'll just bite off all their knees,
We're marching to Selador!

(Repeat Chorus with piccolo solo)

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