Saturday, January 16, 2010


In my previous post--
I wrote about the 'why' of this song...

Now, I'm gonna write about the musical 'wherefore' of it.

This song...
is by the absolute genius, Randy Newman.
I can't really say even, why I connect so thoroughly and deeply to this man's work, but I do.
And if i had to choose one composer's songs to sing for the rest of my life, it would be Randy Newman.

I was first introduced to Randy Newman subconsciously as I fell in love with the movie scores of RAGTIME and AVALON.

However, I was first introduced to Randy Newman consciously as a freshman in college when the Junior Class did a 'black box' Randy Newman review in the 'studio theatre'.

Now, besides the fact that that particular class housed some of the most phenomenal vocal talent, like EVER.
On this PLANET.
I'm talking Ty Taylor, Billy Porter, Natalie Belcon, Tami Tappan, Jack Plotnick...just to name afew of these amazing people.
The whole thing was done in vignettes, which was perfect, since every Randy Newman song really is an all-encompassing journey.

Newman (similarly to Sondheim), is first and foremost a story teller.
His songs have a purpose.
They take you somewhere.
They're like mini three-act plays.
You start a point A, make a discovery at point B, C and sometimes D-
and always end up at the end either back at point A with a new insight...
or at point F-Z...
because you've earned the right to be there.
because of him, you've travelled a very far way in only a short amount of time.

His music always fits the story, and the words, and the music is always STILL music.
Or rather, I should say 'tune-ful'.
There's always an actual TUNE in there.

That i think, is the ultimacy of his brilliance-
he makes you feel like someone's just 'talking' to you...
but it's always very clearly a TUNE.

while i could go on and on about how Randy Newman is the shizzlet....
this post is about the song that he WROTE.

This song is from the movie TOY STORY II.
And it's sung by a doll.
About her relationship with the girl who's loved her and then subsequently outgrown her, and then loved her again.

To be perfectly frank, even though I love this song more than freshly baked chocolate chip cookies...
everyone friggin' records this song.

Everyone. again, I'm in the same position of having to ask myself,

"What's going to make my rendition of this song different or unique enough to WARRANT yet another recording of this song."

it's a special song to me because it means 'grandma'-
the average person listening to it isn't going to know about, let alone probably give two shits about why this song means 'grandma' to me.

All they're going to care about is whether it sucks, or not.
Whether they've 'heard it before', or not.
Whether it touches them, or not.

There is almost a glut of recordings of this song...
some of them buh-rilliant-

btw, run do not walk to buy the recording of Tami Tappan Damiano singing this on her solo album "Hot Notes" at:

aaaaaannnnnndddddd then there are just some God AWFUL renditions of this song out there.
which is...
all that needs to be said about that.

optimistically hoping that, should i record this song, it won't suck...
I have to ask myself....
what about my rendition will make it worth recording.

And honestly...
I can't answer that.
And that's fucking weird for me because usually I've got an answer for everything.

All I can say is, that that 'voice' inside me-
which at this point i can't even tell is me or my grandma anymore-
keeps telling me to record it.

I decide to listen to the 30 second clips on Itunes to really get an idea of what's already 'out there' with this song.
Maybe if i hear what I am not...
I will know then, what i am with this song.

With the renditions that I love, the singers put the lyric ahead of the music. Which is to say, they tell the story of this song above all, and just let the music itself 'play out' naturally.

With the renditions that I absolutely fucking hate more than if I were stuck in a crate with 983827634 poisonous snakes in the holding tank of an aircraft flying from nyc toaustralia...
is when the singer has obviously decided it's a 'pretty tune' and ya know, what story? There's a story?

As the shitty renditions only serve to infuriate me-
because yes, i do get protective of certain songs as if they were my children...
as i am a single woman in her 30s living alone WITHOUT cats, thank you very much...
i decide to focus on the orchestrations of the renditions I dig.

Obviously, strings.
Many strings.
As strings are warm, lush, soulful and rich.

Sadly, strings....
i do not readily have.
Not that I can't add it to the list for jessica and elisa to play but...
like a 5 year old I have a tendency with song in particular to say,

"no, let meeeeeeeee...i can DO IT...bymySEEEELLLFFFF.".

but i give that part of me a 'time-out' and proceed to orchestrate it for two cellos and a violin.
I like the heft that the two cellos (instead of one) will give it.
in theory anyway.
And the violin adds the sweetness.

I work on this arrangement for...
3 hours.
maybe 4?

I use the strings patches in garageband just so i can get an idea of...
how it's going to sound.

not crazy about it.
which is weird, cause i loved the strings in the two versions I really dug on itunes.

the strings totally worked with their renditions.
why not mine?

I decide to do a random wild piano/vocal take.

I listen back.

It's so funny when you listen to yourself sing from the outside.
It's never what you think it's gonna sound like.
So incredibly weird, that.

It still sounds....fussy.
The piano part...
and i'm playing exactly what's written in the music.
Exactly what the other singers had...
but for some reason, when I sing it sounds...

Again, I'm totally miffed.

The other singers didn't sound 'fussy'.
The strings sounded like a perfect fit.

I try a new approach.

I try to not figure it out.

Fuck figuring it out.
Who's got time for that shit?


I do another wild piano/vocal track and pare down the piano part even more.


i do another...
pare it down even more.


again, and again.

I literally pare it down until I'm almost just playing base chords underneath.

I'm shocked that I prefer this as...
some of the moving lines in the piano part are so unbelievably gorgeous...
i can't believe i'm not missing them.

but i don't.

and that's when i realize...
that's the reason I should record it.

because as far as I can tell...
it's never been recorded this "bare bones".

This is the way I need to do it.


If I was a NORMAL person...
with a normal set up...
and a normal accompanist...
i could lay this thing down in less 5 minutes in one take.

However, since I am all on my own over here...
how the FUCK am i going to....
time the piano to the vocal-
or the vocal to the piano.

if i play it as sparsely as i WANT to...
there's no rhyme or rhythm really in EITHER the vocal or the piano line.
it's not like i can record one-
and then accompany the other.

I realize that i have no choice but to record the whole thing-
completely acappella.
and hope to Christ i stay on pitch.

leave a mock piano intro-
grab the pitch...
and then......'go'....i guess.


I go into the bathroom...
cut out the accompaniment right after the piano intro and then...
just sing it.
piano free.
string free.


i do one take...
which i honestly really dig and hope that I've remained on pitch-
beause i have no way of knowing that until i try to accompany myself on the piano later.

i do another just for good measure.

i bring the computer back out to the piano...
accompany myself, like i would any other singer...

track #11.

literally, the shot in the dark.


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