Narrative Lyrics

While getting to know more people in the Vocaloid fan culture, I realize that I misunderstood quite a few fans’ attachment to “stories.” I hope that it is easy to understand that a music culture with standards they are nonsense or in foreign (for me) language, that complex lyrics may be overlooked. Furthermore, trends in pop music suggest that the more words a song has, and the more the song relies on them, the more likely it is that the song will be misunderstood, and as a result,  unpopular.

However, if you are aspiring to stand out from the songs released in a single day using a particular virtual voice, a narrative lyric can go a long way, if your audience relates to it properly.

I think my surprise and misunderstanding may have come from reappropriation of words that already exist, because I consider a narrative lyric (a “story song”) a normal aspect of lyric songwriting. The desktop electronic musician is the current and future generation’s folk musician, so it’s nice to see a narrative lyric style carry on. I favor anything that gets new people interested in music.

Sorry to bring this up after it had pretty much died, but I had to respond to this. If you create a fanfiction/story that fills in these things that are left blank, you ruin the vibe by taking away that vague space that people could make interesting. That big story you're making up is shooting itself in the foot. ...uh, you're not equating vocaloid story-based songs and big story arcs with fan fiction, are you? Because songs like Bad End Night, Servant of Evil, and Kagerou Project are all just as much a part of the vocaloid "canon" as more regular pop or rock songs like Ai Dee and Donut Hole. (For the record, I love those too, even though I'm fonder of the stories overall.) And you don't have to worry about canon being made less vague even with story-based songs. I say this as a fan of 'em since 2009. There are so many story-based songs and the personalities conflict so much that it wouldn't be possible to pin down the personality of any vocaloid. I mean, compare Len's personality in Servant of Evil with Spice! or HoneyWorks' Crybaby Boyfriend arc or Monochrome Dream-Eating Baku or Synchronicity or...I could go on. The personalities are only valid for those particular songs or arcs, so the story-based songs are never going to "ruin" anything - because they're all equally canon. You could make an entire anime from story-based songs and you wouldn't ever limit any of the vocaloids to a particular personality. ...Maybe I'm not understanding what you're saying, and I'm completely off on the wrong foot? (I agree with you that vocaloid fandom'd exist even without stories...I just think it'd be much less interesting and lively if it did. It could probably exist without normal pop/rock songs too, but that'd be equally bad.) permalinkparentreportgive goldreplybuffer [–]chunter16 1 point 6 days ago Thanks for explaining, I was in fact talking about people who use straight-up fanfiction as opposed to writing a song that tells a story (which has its own caveat the same as in all songwriting.) I think what you described is more like the normal acting that goes with singing any song, which ceases as soon as the song ends. Nobody really confuses that temporary personality with the singer, even when the song is particularly personal. I talked to others (from different fandoms) about how nobody ever likes every single principle of it, yet, you'll inevitably rub with the person who thinks it's so impossible for you to say you like X and Y but you don't like Z... In the end I make up songs in a laptop, and I'm just here to find music I won't find anywhere else. I know I'm supposed to accept certain things, but a word like canon means "rule" and comes from the Papal Bulls that declared documents as being divinely inspired for inclusion in the Bible. I take it as a heavy word for people who want to assert their ideas on others. permalinkparenteditdeletereplybuffer [–]greymousie 1 point 6 days ago Thanks for explaining, I was in fact talking about people who use straight-up fanfiction as opposed to writing a song that tells a story (which has its own caveat the same as in all songwriting.) My apologies...I misunderstood you. (I did briefly wonder if you really did mean fan fiction, but I couldn't figure out where that came from, so I figured you must've meant the songs.) you'll inevitably rub with the person who thinks it's so impossible for you to say you like X and Y but you don't like Z True. Everyone has different tastes, and that's what makes fandom interesting. I wouldn't want it to be any other way. As long as everyone's respectful, it's all good. In the end I make up songs in a laptop, and I'm just here to find music I won't find anywhere else. I don't make songs myself (I don't really have the talent or inclination), but for finding new songs, I'm the same way. But with a different focus. I like regular pop/rock vocaloid songs, but I feel like I could possibly find songs like that elsewhere, minus the singing-robot aspect. The kind of story-based songs that vocaloid has, though? I can't find that anywhere else. The closest you get is folk or filk or perhaps showtunes, and none of those are quite the same, nor do they have the same emotional impact for me that some vocaloid songs do. I would probably never have gotten into vocaloid fandom if it weren't for them, and I'm glad I did.


At a wiki author quotes from John Mainwaring:s biography of Handel:

From his very childhood Handel had discovered such a strong propensity to Music, that his father, who always intended him for the study of the Civil Law, had reason to be alarmed. Perceiving that this inclination still increased, he took every method to oppose it. He strictly forbad him to meddle with any musical instrument; nothing of that kind was suffered to remain in the house, nor was he ever permitted to go to any other, where such kind of furniture was in use. All this caution and art, instead of restraining, did but augment his passion. He had found means to get a little clavichord privately convey’d to a room at the top of the house. To this room he constantly stole when the family was asleep. He had made some progress before Music had been prohibited, and by his assiduous practice at hours of rest, had made such farther advances, as, tho’ not attended to at that time, were no slight prognostications of his future greatness.

I get two interesting facts from this: first is that families have been banning their children from making music for a very long time, and second is that there have been portable keyboard instruments available since the days of the Baroque.

I imagine the clavichord as the 17th and 18th century equivalent of the Casio and Yamaha portable keyboards of my childhood, something you can take almost anywhere and play in soft solitude at any hour of the day or night to scratchpad compose or pass the time. I read this because I wondered if clavichords, virginals, harpsichords and such required a different touch than a piano (the answer I found is “yes.”)

Happy Retirement, Phil

Phil Collins announced either through some press release or press leak that he is no longer a part of the music business, and I have to admit I am not the least bit surprised.  He worked constantly from the 70’s through the 90’s to be the person that he now is; now that his body is starting to give him trouble I think it’s about time he got some well-deserved rest.

I saw Phil Collins playing on PBS television when I was about seven or eight years old, and I thought that the notion of a single person able to play nearly all the instruments performing with a band on stage was absolutely the greatest thing I had seen up to that point and it was something that I wanted to do someday.

Of course, knowing what kind of person he has been throughout his career, he may very well return to sing once or twice.

When Your Fans Do What You Do

The 8-bit Collective is a forum and music-sharing website serving the chipmusic (music of old computers and video games) scene for quite some years now, and while I don’t want to incorrectly report history, it’s drawn the ire of some of its medium-to-long time users for reasons that are both controllable and not.  Since both its file hosting and forums are completely open to the public in an unscreened manner, one of the chief uncontrollable complaints is that there are many newer, younger users that share music that show signs that the poster is still learning the (electronic) instrument or learning how to make music at all.  Moderate to extremely experienced users chide with “Try Google” responses when there are questions about issues that are obviously known, and the less mature (or perhaps more bored) of the users will resort to trolling and hazing.

The rebuttal to the hazing is a complaint that if these younger users are not encouraged to learn the craft, when the experienced musicians become too old to provide new material, the form of music will die.  Those that haze, and many that don’t, conceded that if mediocrity becomes the norm, the music will die anyway, so perhaps this is just the way of things…

…but I noticed something different in one of the forum threads.

The original question is, “How do you make an awesome melody that is happy and epic at the same time?!” (emphasis mine)

What follows are replies that appear to interpret the question, “How do I make a melody?” which I am embarrassed to have mistaken myself.  By the end of the discussion, it becomes clear that the original post is from a fan asking a particular handful of musicians about their creative processes.  One of them obliges with an answer, and an administrator closes the thread.

This style of music is unique in that an artist needs less than $100 of equipment to perform it in a live, social venue, and that it doesn’t take very long to get from no knowledge at all to playing simple rhythms and melodies.  In that sense, almost everyone in the 8-Bit Collective site is assumed to be a musician, though I am aware of at least a small handful who are not.  I have reason to believe that the number of users who are really just fans of the style is higher than expected, and that many of these fans are posting trials in the audio section, though they may not have the ambition to become like the musicians they came to the site to learn more about.

This idea is not news, plenty of people see a famous football player and want to play football, a famous actor and want to act, play video games and want to program them, or see a rock guitarist and try to take up the guitar.  (I became a multi-instrumentalist because I saw a Phil Collins concert on TV at a young age.)  Some of us have stories of meeting a star player/performer, and some of the stories are great… some aren’t.  When celebrities meet fans that also admit they perform, the results can be very mixed, but usually dismissing in some way.  I’ve never known anyone to get a good result from handing a homemade CD to a rock star, for example.

So in the microcosm that is chipmusic, where its “stars” are much more ordinary and accessible, what should these stars do when every person in the listening audience is as capable of making the music you make as you are?

Sabrepulse’s choice was to be admirably honest, “I wrote the melody … by banging away on a cheap yamaha keyboard until I found something fun, then sequenced it. At the time I had very little knowledge about music.”

I agree with this approach.  I answered a question about how I made an explosive reverberating bass drum sound in the middle of a concert once.

See you next time.

Download Darkest Night of the Year

In a global culture that gradually moves itself toward 24-hour days that are, on a vast majority, spent indoors, the aspect that maintains our agricultural sense of the harvest is the collection of holidays celebrated around the world between October and January. It is no coincidence that Christmas is four days after Winter Solstice, and that we celebrate the beginnings of hope for a better life and a better world on the darkest night of the year.

An interpretation of Stille Nacht by Josef Moht and Franz Xaver Gruber.

Thank you for comments…  Merry Christmas, Happy whatever you celebrate, best wishes to everyone.

I’ll have more to say when things are a bit less busy.
See you next time.


First, you’ll need a player or NES/Famicom emulator that can play the .nsf (nintendo sound file) format.  Get one from here:

Second, visit this page:

Yes, it’s in Japanese.  The contest is hosted in Japan, what were you expecting?  Next, download “the pack,” the big zip file of all the competitor’s entries near the top of the page.  Unpack it someplace handy.

Third, click on one of the links halfway to the bottom of the Famicompo page.  It will take you to a sheet of checkmarks that corresponds to the two directories in the music pack.  Listen to the tunes in the appropriate directory, the numbers correspond to the titles on the checklist.  If you like a tune, give it one (and only one) point by clicking its checkbox, or if you don’t, just leave the checkbox blank.

When you’re through, click the box at the bottom.  This doesn’t send your vote, however.  The red words at the top of the page that will be drawn is asking you to confirm your vote by filling in the boxes at the bottom and clicking on the button on the left.  Do that, and your vote is official.  You can return to the page and give a point to pieces that you did not grant a point, but once you give a piece a point you may not take it away.

Repeat for the other directory.

I have one piece in the Covers category, and two in the Originals.  It is against the spirit of the contest for me to divulge which ones.

Famicompo is a Famicom/NES music programming competition hosted in Japan.

I’ll have more to write about a little later.

danicapatrick247:  Thanks for the look and such…  Considering what’s gone on you should have a bit more to write about…  like Dan Wheldon’s bump.  (I didn’t get to watch that, though.  It probably wasn’t anything personal, Wheldon always tries to crawl in a hole and disappear when he thinks he underperformed.)

See you next time.