In Which I Am Proud of My Friends …

… and also Facebook is briefly not awful.

This all started because we bought a house.

Among the reasons my family moved from Canberra to Wagga Wagga in 2012 was to, we hoped, save up enough money to buy a place, on the kind of land you don’t find without spending an absolute fortune in and around Canberra. Six years later, we got there: a slightly-too-small house on two acres near the Murrumbidgee River (yes, we’ll probably flood at some point).

View of the back yard:

To the left, a big shed does its best to make up for the slightly-too-small house.

Facing the other way:

There’s a lot to do, but I set up a record player almost immediately in the shed – priorities – and since the only thing over the fence is a reserve of council-owned land, where local golfers practise their shots, the whole family can play music on that record player pretty darn loud without bothering anyone.

The first album I played was Revolver – after which, I’m sorry to say, I really let those golfers know just how white and middle-aged I was with Wings and Billy Joel and Wired Volume 2 (seriously, how offensive is that snare drum on Bucks Fizz’s Land of Make Believe?). Then I changed things, as the young people say, up, by hanging out washing to the strains of:

Later, I planted seedlings to The Firebird Suite, so obviously I had Stravinsky on my mind. I’d also recently seen, and laughed hard at, this tweet:

Thus, I had Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on my mind too, and the next morning I walked to work thinking about the song’s opening lines:

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord …

“I wonder what that secret chord was?” I thought. “Could it have been Stravinsky’s Petrushka chord? Huh. What rhymes with Petrushka? Eliza Dushka? Baboushka?”

In any case, I thought, in keeping with Cohen’s original “It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth”, any re-write, for maximum music-theory-nerd value, would have to explain what a Petrushka chord actually is. By the time I got to work, I had facebooked this:

No explanation, no context. I just threw it up there and hoped some music theory-nerd friends would like it. And they did, so the next day, having realised that the Tristan chord was pretty much de rigeur for this sort of thing, I walked to work again, and ended up with:

I couldn’t think of a decent rhyme for ‘Tristan’, and besides there wasn’t anywhere it could scan nicely at the end of a line. I also justified near-rhyming ‘sixth’ with ‘fifth’ by noting that Cohen’s original contains near-rhymes, plus parodies should sound like their inspiration. Cough.

Next day, having remembered Strauss’s Elektra chord:

That’s easily the funniest of the three, probably because it doesn’t waste so much time on music theory details, but at this point I was a bit stuck. Could I do Sullivan’s The Lost Chord? Fortunately, this happened:

I love how Helen, whom I know through Canberra’s Impro community, and who is herself a trained musician, included, without any prompting on my part, the necessary music theory nerdery, and in exactly the right spot. She wrote hers really quickly too, dammit. Then:

Helen loved it. Glenn later frowned on his identity of ‘then’ with ‘then’, but I pointed out that he was doing better than half the lyricists on Broadway. Helen again:

Scriabin’s mystic chord is harder to describe than any of the others so far, and so I couldn’t think what to do with it. But Mike could:

James is a songwriter, so he knows when to add an extra syllable for a laugh:

And Jamie brilliantly managed to think of a ubiquitous type of chord that had utterly failed to cross my mind:

I’ll defend ‘When’t’ and ‘vaulted heights of Heaven’ as utterly Leonard Cohen-ian if anyone objects to them.

UPDATE: Two excellent further entries from Andrew Kay and Noel Katz below! I first met Andrew as the superb half-of-two pianists contributing to Canberra Repertory’s Old Time Music Hall, but I later learned he was a formidable songwriting talent in his own right. As for Noel, he’s a music-theatre composer/lyricist with a highly impressive CV, a very much worth-your-while blog, and my own taste (ie the correct one) in the classic virtues of rhyme, scansion and prosody (he may pronounce some words differently from us Aussies):

Obviously, I’m proud of my friends, but think about it: this is a pretty high-level, daunting lyric game. You have to correctly describe some aspect of chordal harmony, make your words scan believably, include a joke if you can, and get it all to rhyme. And they all did it in a matter of days, while working their actual jobs.

I’m not just being kind: my friends are doing better than half the lyricists on Broadway. I won’t say which half.

One thought on “In Which I Am Proud of My Friends …

  1. I heard there was a second chord That fingers hit when they were bored
    A major triad, but with one proviso:
    For breaking through the clouds of gray
    Came something odd, a single ray
    In just a sec, it all made do-re-mi-so
    Do-re-mi-so; do-re-mi-so
    Do-re-mi-so; do-re-mi-so

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