The Offhand Band - Another Universe

from by Various Artists

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When the Round 2 challenge was announced, with constraints only on a very basic element of the music and freedom to do whatever else we might want with the music and especially the lyrics, I quickly had a cascade of thoughts that brought me to an idea for the song.

First, I immediately decided that I wanted to write about a topic that would itself make the time signature changes meaningful instead of arbitrary. What occurred to me right after that was the notion that the different time signatures could represent different times — different time periods in the experience of a narrator, who would be describing a significant contrast between them. Given that time signatures “feel” very different, it seemed obvious that the two time periods should evoke very different feelings for the narrator. Right away, I thought that the song should begin with the narrator describing life as it is in the first verse, while the chorus could describe not only a different time but one that hasn’t even happened yet, a hoped-for time. At that point it was clear to me that the verses would describe a somewhat troubled, confused and dissatisfying life, contrasting sharply with the fantasy of the choruses.

This seemed a strong enough idea that brainstorming happened easily, ideas just coming to me. Many of these initial, fast-and-furious ideas for lyrics would end up finding their way into the song, including the recognition of the fantasy as merely a fantasy, as “another place and time.” This would seal the connection between the content of the story and the form of varying time signatures defined by the challenge, making things clearly non-arbitrary as I'd hoped.

The basic musical framework also just popped up. Thinking of a life of stagnation, I imagined someone at work or school watching the clock, just waiting for things to end. I also pondered how lives of dissatisfaction and conflict are usually wrapped up with dichotomies and dilemmas, in which we feel caught between two choices that seem unable to co-exist. The tick-tocking clock and the dualistic thinking both suggested not only lyrical content for the verses but also 2/4 as their time signature. The chorus fantasy would need to depict a more holistic life where nothing needs to lose in order for something else to win, and life flowing effortlessly as a result. The circular, fluid, waltzing feel of 3/4 time was the ideal choice both for musical feel as well as symbolism. From there, the main musical themes of the final song popped out quickly as well.

For those interested, many more details behind the writing of the song can be found at theoffhandband.com/2010/07/another-universe/?postTabs=1

lyrics

[2/4 time signature]
The clock is ticking
Sand spills away
Some things may happen
Yet all's the same
I feel I'm standing
On solid ground
But what's below it?
Could it fall down?

There in the mirror
It looks like me
But something's missing
I just can't see
Outside, a smile
Within, a frown
Only the clock hands
Go all the [3/4 time signature] way round

But in another universe
Everything's reverse
Life is sublime
There's another me
Dancing fancy free
All the words rhyme
Each to their own rhythm
And I'm right there with 'em
But that's in another place and a-[2/4 time signature]-nother time

It's love or money
They're foes or friends
Selfish or selfless
Uses or thems
Choose Column A or
From Column B
We can't pick both sides
Nor in between

Through life I tiptoe
Eggshells each spot
I'm scared of changing
And scared of not
It doesn't matter
Just who's to blame
If I do nothing
Then life stays [3/4 time signature] the same

But in another universe
Left and right converse
No ors, just ands
Calm instead of strife
Grabbing hold of life
With all three hands
Nothing is neglected
Everything accepted
Everyone just understands

Yes, in another universe
Everything's reverse
Life is sublime
There's another me
Dancing fancy free
All the words rhyme
Each to their own rhythm
And I'm right there with 'em
But that's in another place and another time

credits

from SpinTunes #1: Round 2, released July 14, 2010
The Offhand Band

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Spintown Middletown, Ohio

I run a songwriting contest called SpinTunes. Most of the material hosted on this account is a result of that contest. You can follow the contest on Twitter (@SpinTunes) or my personal account (@Spintown).

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