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Onward to the West


My daughter Zoe wrote a pair of shadow songs for the first two rounds of SpinTunes 5, and I contributed for my part with guidance on production techniques and songwriting, mostly hints regarding harmonies to fit her melodies. Then she went off to a 2 week summer camp and my wife and I had 2 weeks to experience what life will be like when she goes off to college and it's just us. That break is why neither she nor I wanted to be official competitors this time around. With her return, we decided it was time to attempt a true collaboration, with us both writing music and lyrics, and us both singing.

The challenge was to write a song inspired by this image. In addition, since I hadn't written songs for the previous rounds, I thought it would be cool to catch up, in a manner of speaking. I couldn't manage to work in the round 2 challenge (inspirational "pumping up" music), but this song includes "last day of work" and "mini-opera" aspects from rounds 1 and 3 respectively.

The concept was Zoe's, who happened to be reading The Lord of the Rings at the time. The two people singing are Samwise Gamgee (sung by me) and an elf girl that Zoe invented named Lorafaen. They are on the beach awaiting passage to Aman across the sea. I wrote Sam's lyrics and Zoe wrote Lorafaen's.

Writing for two different voices was quite educational. Accommodating us both involved creative reaches in the form of key changes (5 of them), counterpoint, and harmony all primarily focused on keeping us both within comfortable ranges while still achieving motion in parallel with the emotion of the characters.

Oh yeah, and I'm not sure quite how this developed, but an A harmonic minor scale over a progression based on C major is really nice. You listen to it and it sounds like it's in a minor key, even when the chords are going back and forth between Cmaj7add9 and Caug/G#.

[Verse 1] 
Once again out on the edge of all I've known, 
Every burden carried, every brilliance shone, 
My every question asked alone. 
Long ago the road was ever in its prime. 
Going on and on to mountains left to climb, 
But that was once upon a time. 

Onward to the west I sail, 
Guided by celestial counsel to the 
Harbor of the land of peace at last. 

[Verse 2] 
Light and dark of day and night is all I've known, 
Lands undying only fragments have been shown 
Of havens lost but not alone 
Now my open sea ahead is in its prime 
Burdens fall before the zenith of my climb 
I think that it is finally time 


[Verse 3] 
Ever forward, though with love will come despair.
                    Nothing left behind but gardens waning bare,
Head shoreward to a land so bright and fair.
                    And a footprint in a beach of hope and prayer.
A star shining high leads us there.
                    My unseen ally, lead us there.