Saturday, 7 February 2009

Big Robot, Little Robot -- in depth, part 8


Hold on there -- we're near the end.

This track, I believe, is the one that most radically breaks away from the "expected" representations of the characters. At the very, very early stages, I did consider making it into a stereotypically fast, bouncy and restless piece, laden with electronic sounds and everything. After all, that's pretty much what the character is. He sleeps on his feet, on a cartwheel -- and his "alarm clock" is activated by turning the cartwheel on at top speed and slamming him against a wall. He's the most slapstick character on the cartoon, though he's also temperamental and emotional. And, somewhere along the process, I came up with this "samba" melody. That's when the piece started more or less to take shape.

And I tell you: that is how my mind was working when I was doing the album. In no other time of my life would I ever have an idea for a samba, I tell you! I was coming up with all sorts of strange things, and this track was something of a challenge to myself: could I have the chops to pull off a samba song? How would it sound? But I knew I wouldn't start straight off into it, so I came up with that slow, ballad-esque intro, which is slightly reminiscent of the mood of Rusty. And, of course, the ending would finally launch into a more recognisable electronic robo-bop, the perfect cue for Tiny. Assembling those pieces in my mind wasn't hard, but then the challenge was to make it.

It was actually rather easy to write the samba part, and the only annoying bit was the piano. If you listen closely, the piano part never repeats itself, and it's constantly improvising. The other instruments are pretty much playing the same thing over and over. I felt really glad at how I could assemble the percussion part (there are a handful of instruments playing there, such as a tambourine, a cowbell, a surdo drum, and of course, more cowbell), at how the woodwinds are entwined, and at how the brasses rise from way below the mix when the A minor chord hits. The mixing was a bit problematic, though. This was the one moment when I had real trouble making the mix, because unlike the rest of the album, there are many different elements that need their specific space. Because the speakers I was using were quite bad, I don't think the mix is as good as it could have been. If you pump up the bass, though, it can get better.

The other parts were no big trouble. The chimes at the end were more interesting to write, because the "descending" effect at the end demanded a bit of caution. That bit is really the only part in the song that represents the most slapstick side of Sporty, by making it fast and clockwork but weird and puzzling. The trick is very simple: at every bit, the instruments are modulated down a semitone, and after a few bars it launches into all out atonality.

I like this track. I think it's a combination, once again, of elements that are very simple. The interesting thing comes from how they're combined with each other, and combined with the rest of the album. It stands out, you know? Besides, it's a bit subversive: samba was always meant to be groovy, loose, free of restraints, heavily syncopated and full of swing. Yet here, even though the rhythm is played "correctly", it's a lot stiffer and mechanical than usual. It's sort of "danceable but not much", a "my joints don't allow me to move as freely as I should, but I'm dancing anyway". It's robot samba. And, of course, with a very elusive intro: when it seems to be a "more of the same" thing, it deceives all expectations and launches into something quite different. You know that melody? Initially, I tried to make it so the notes would lead the listener expect those corny Hollywood clichés, but ending on something completely different. I'm not sure if the final product does that -- I ended up too involved with the melody to make it merely a joke, so there you have it.

Only two tracks remaining!

No comments:

Post a Comment