Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nothing more

A few weeks ago, I was listening to my take on the traditional Irish tune, "Killarney Boys of Pleasure", during my evening perambulations. As this song followed my versions of some Sandy Denny songs on my mp3 playlist, I was still thinking about which additional Sandy songs I could sequence. It struck me that I could use the basis of "Killarney" for "Nothing more", the song which opens the eponymous Fotheringay album.

True, the chord sequences are slightly different: "Killarney" is Em/Bm whereas "Nothing more" is Em/C, but that wouldn't be a problem. The real problem of "Nothing more" is that its harmonic palette is so limited - it's composed of six verses, three of which are Em/C and three are C/Em, as well as another two instrumental verses of Em/C. At the end of each verse, there are two repeats of D/Em. So it was clear that any arrangement would have to rely on stylistic and intensity variations as opposed to harmonic variations.

I did "cheat" by changing the chords in the instrumental sections to Bm/A but that doesn't seem to make that much difference.

Anyway, I started of with a very quiet verse, with acoustic bass and a mixed pad, then slowly built up the sound with cor anglais, soprano saxophone, clarinet, cello and arrpegiated harp. I really like the clarinet lines. When I had finished the arrangement - and listened to it for a week, tweaking here and there - it was time to record the vocal.

As far as I remember, this went fairly quickly: there were several false starts, as usual, and I had to repeat the final verse, but otherwise there were no problems. It took me several hours to find a vocal sound with which I was happy (equalisation and reverb). After a few more days of listening, I decided to make a copy of the vocal for a few verses, then with the help of my vocal tuner program, I was able to create a simple harmony vocal track. This was mixed in stereo, and placed 'behind' the main vocal.

I very much liked the result, so I decided to place it on the Internet and share it with the Sandy Denny mailing list. True, I have received only two responses, but they were both very favourable:
  • I like the composition, the instrumentation, and your voice, too. Will be in my iTunes library.
  • Thanks for the cover. It's beautiful.
You can make up your own mind by listening to the song.

Appendum: after writing the above, I went for my evening walk. Nick Drake was first up on the mp3 player and I thrilled to the sound of his guitar and the restrained arrangements of the late Robert Kirby. When I came home, I found an excellent midi arrangement of Drake's "Day is done" on the Internet. I liberated a few bars of the guitar part, switched the notes around slightly, then added them to my arrangement of "Nothing more" in place of the pad. The resulting track has more space between the instruments and is slightly less mechanical (one of the advantages of playing a 'pointillist' part through the NN-19 sampler is that the stereo position of each note can be random). I'll have to listen to this version several times before I decide which will become the "official" version. I'll also have a deeper look at "Day is done", especially at the strings.

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