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