Sunday, May 15, 2011

A new take on an old song: Glares and Yells

I wrote this song a number of years ago for my first album, When So Late Becomes So Early.  While I liked the original arrangement, the vocals were a bit washed out and people had a hard time hearing the lyrics.  Also, I think the tempo was too slow.  So I thought I'd do an all acoustic version with just the guitar, a more sprightly tempo (20% faster), and better vocals.

I wrote this song for people I care deeply about, going through a difficult time.  More broadly speaking, the song is for anyone who is struggling with a deeply rooted relationship strained over the years by differences in personality and communication style.  The lyrics are below the video.

"Glares and Yells"
by Lawrence Chang

My eyes resemble yours
you gave me sensitive ears
but we don't see eye to eye
and you can't hear all I hear.

And I know you want what's best for me
and I, what's best for you.
But there's so much pain and misunderstanding
that's so hard to undo.

Words spoken out of love,
heard they're something else.
But we wouldn't be here without love,
fighting with glares and yells.

I listen to you, I really do.
But I listen to my heart as well.
Some times it's clear I'm as scared as you
when I ponder what these dreams foretell.

But I never dreamed in any nightmare
how far apart we'd grow.
Now the air is so tense between us
there's not a handshake or bye when I go.

Words spoken out of love,
heard they're something else.
But we wouldn't be here without love,
fighting with glares and yells.

Is there a way besides tragedy
to bridge this gap between us?
Is there a cure besides wanton time
to thaw our hearts with trust?

So that we choose better words.
So that we hear hidden love --
that we speak,
when we speak,
if we speak...
and forgive.

Words spoken out of love,
heard they're something else.
But we wouldn't be here without love,
fighting with glares and yells.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sun's Rain: a new song about Loss and Hope

It seems there's been a lot of suffering in the world, recently, from disasters of varying causality and proximity.  Like the earthquake in Japan, and so on.

When I was younger, I would only read or experience art and media about disasters that typically struck elsewhere in the world, impacting people I did not know.  But every year that goes by, unspeakable suffering has found its way closer and closer, having now touched people that I know well.

This song is dedicated anyone who has ever lost someone close.  Every now and then, it rains but the sun is out.  This song is for anyone who knows what it's like to feel as though the rain falls only on you, while the rest of the world moves on.

This was not an easy song to write.  But making music is an important outlet that helps me reflect, understand, mourn, and express.  I set a goal to finish this song by the end of Lent, and so here it is.  Happy Easter.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Concert recap: BNL

It'd been a long while since I'd been to a live concert. Almost long enough that I'd forgotten how a well-crafted show can hold your attention for almost as long as a good play or movie. And certainly long enough that I'd forgotten how it feels to be sitting through the concert and then suddenly hear something so delightful that you and two-and-a-half thousand people get up and start dancing. I understand that BNL is known to put on a particularly good show, so it was fortuitous to have a chance to see them live last year. And disappoint they did not.

I went in to the show remembering that they sang "Pinch Me", one of my favorites, and the song that goes, "It's been, one week since you looked at me.... yah dah dah dee dah dah dee dah yah dah." So it was a pleasant surprise when they brought out "If I had a million dollars", "You run away," and other songs that I knew, but didn't realize that BNL sang.  When you hear a song that you haven't even thought of for a decade, but that you heard every day on the radio for an entire summer ten years ago, it's amazing how the mind not only brings back the melody and lyrics, but also other thoughts and feelings that were associated with that song back in the day.  That's something that's just so powerful about music.

I left the show better understanding the appeal of the band and why they developed such a following over the years.  They alternated between acoustic and electric songs, with each member of the band playing different instruments and singing different harmonies for a variety of arrangements that kept the show fairly dynamic. From barbershop acapella to improvised rap to banjo-driven folk, the band sprinkled novelty numbers around their mainstream hits.  I left the Mountain Winery humming and singing their music for the next few days.

No matter how much the world has changed in the way we consume media these days, it's hard to imagine anything that can truly replicate the impact that a successful live show can have for a band.  And there's nothing else that inspires a musician to dust off his instrument like attending a live show.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wake-Up Kiss: a new song about lazy mornings

The morning is one of my favorite times of the day. I wrote this song when I was traveling to Paris a few years ago, inspired by leisurely mornings in the City of Lights. Although I was in France, the first word in the chorus actually has a Chinese translation I should point out: "Zao an" means "good morning" in Mandarin. Why use Chinese here? Well, my Chinese is not great by any means, but there are certain Chinese phrases that I really got used to saying at home while growing up. And "zao an" was one of them. Also in the chorus, I would have liked to have been able to use the French word, "mademoiselle" (one of the few that I remember from high school French class), but it just didn't work. So combine my limited Chinese with my even more limited French, and this is what you get, "zao an madame."

With regards to the music, I wrote the chords on guitar, first. Then, I wrote the melody with Finale. When I do that, the melody can often be difficult to sing, because I don't pay as much attention as I should to my own singing range when I compose. I had to actually download the MP3 to my phone and learn how to sing the song that way -- and I still don't have it quite right. But I had a day off last week and so I figured I'd give it a go to see if I could get a reasonable take down.

So I went driving around in the afternoon during my daughter's nap and looked for a different spot than last time. Although it was a beautiful day and there were some really scenic possibilities I found, I couldn't quite get far enough away from the road to avoid all of the road noise. So apologies for the sound of cars rumbling by. This was the best take I could get down:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A ukulele version of "Expectant"

After playing around with my new ukulele for a couple of weeks, I thought it would be fun to use to record a version of "Expectant". I'd always thought that this song should be played with a ukulele because the sound was inspired by Hawaiian music when I wrote it. So on my last day of vacation earlier this week, with my daughter napping in the car, I found a fairly isolated parking lot -- except for the joggers, man talking loudly on his cell phone, planes, and birds swarming around -- and shot the following video.

After much rain over the holidays, I lucked out with some warm afternoon sunlight. While I didn't quite feel like I was back in Maui again, it was nice being outdoors surrounded by nature for this song.

The ukulele was quite convenient to carry around. But I still had some trouble holding the thing when I played, as it kept slipping down on a number of takes. Eventually I was able to find a somewhat comfortable, stable position for it.

It will be fun to try out some other songs that may be well-suited for ukulele as well.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Uke for the New Year

Just before Christmas, we took a family vacation to Maui. As is always the case when I visit Hawaii, I got ukulele tunes and all sorts of Hawaiian music stuck in my head, which is such an integral part of the whole experience and part of what makes the islands so relaxing.

As we were leaving, my wife thought it would be fun to buy my daughter a toy ukulele as a souvenir. And I agreed. So we picked one up from downtown Lahaina on our way to the airport.  While my daughter loves her little pink uke, at some point I expressed some mild disappointment that the instrument didn't really hold it's tuning very well. So it wasn't really playable as a real instrument.  My wife heard this and rectified the situation by surprising me with a ukulele of my own on Christmas morning!

She did a good job finding a solid instrument at a reasonable price. Apparently, the local music store was running low on inventory before the holidays, saying that ukulele's have been pretty popular this season. I wonder how much of the recent surge in popularity has been due to this song?

I love my solid-wood, Kala concert ukulele. I've been playing with it over my Christmas vacation and will hopefully be able to record something soon that I can post. As there are only four strings on a ukulele, the chord formations are fairly easy to learn for a guitarist. What takes the most getting used to is how to hold such a small instrument.

Happy new year!