Over the past few weeks, I have been working on sequencing the song "Lost" by Van der Graaf Generator, which appeared on their album 'H to He' in 1970 (either their second or third album, depending on how one counts). This is one of my all-time favourite songs, so much so that I was moved to record a version on cassette played by myself and two friends in 1975 (it's probably not very good). It's about time that a digital version (with controlled vocals and full instrumentation) should be created. There are only two problems with this song: it's very long and there are multiple time signature changes.
The structure of the song can be said to be thus: verse type A (VA), VA, verse type B (VB), verse type C, VA, VB, VB. I suppose that this is somewhat similar to the verse|verse|chorus|middle 8|verse|chorus|chorus structure which appears frequently, but the B verse is definitely not a chorus, and the 'middle bit' can hardly be construed as a 'middle 8'. Not only that, but the A verse is almost a song in itself, being very long and constructed of several sections.
Just to complicate matters, most of the A verses could be considered to be in 3/4 time, but towards the end, the rhythm moves into 4/4. The B verses are in plain 4/4, as is the 'middle bit'. Whilst the sequencing program which I use can handle multiple time signatures, Reason cannot; I solved this problem by having a 4/4 time signature for the entire piece, having the A verses sequenced in 12/8, written as 4/4.
My version is about 255 bars in length and plays for about 12:45 minutes (depending on the fade), running at 80bpm. The original lasts about the same time, but is faster; it contains two instrumental interludes which I elided.
I sequenced the opening verses sometime in 2009; I remember that it took me a long time to achieve something which sounded reasonable - the opening 12/8 section had to be played in a 'dignified' manner and not 'swung'. For reasons which I cannot recall, I left the work in progress to be completed at a later date. I resumed work on the song about three weeks ago, in which I added all the missing parts and then worked on making a complete and coherent arrangement. As it happens, I made very few changes to the first part - an organ riff was added to the opening verse which later transferred to what was originally a flute part. The flute transmogrified into a soprano saxophone at a very late stage. I found some good drum loops which help the final B verses immensely
I now face the awkward prospect of having to sing this thing! I don't expect any problems with the A verses nor with the middle bit, but pitching has been a problem with the B verses.
Stitching the song together has not been easy; I recall that Peter Hammill once related to me how the 'H to He' album was recorded on 16-track, thus enabling them to record songs in pieces, changing instrumentation and ambience. For a long while, I didn't think that this song was part of their live set, but I have at least one complete live performance in my collection and there is also a partial video, which used to be on YouTube.
What am I going to do with the song once it is finished? I can't upload it to SoundClick as I don't have publishing rights for the song and have no intention of seeking them. I'll probably upload it to a file sharing service which I sometime use then inform the PH mailing list about it.