Marigolds

Oh man, I really love this piece.

The whole thing started when I was sitting on my parents’ front porch on a warm day. I had set myself the task of writing a song, which was having the usual stultifying effect. I’ve never been one of those writers who ascribe to the “write something every day” school of creating. I understand the benefits, I’ve just never been able to welcome that kind of discipline into my life. So, I had been trying to write a song, and it was just feeling forced, so I gave it up. Then, I started doing the thing that always ends up being the most productive, just enjoying the feel of the instrument, listening to what sounds good, basically letting the instrument tell me what to play. So, this really slow, maudlin riff came about.

A few days later I was back home, and started trying to record the riff. First I had to figure out what time signature the thing was in. 9/4, apparently. Next I added the bass and clarinet, two MIDI instruments that I had been using for the other pieces, and the double banjo.

Even though it was musically fairly fleshed out, I let it sit for a while. I was back up in Milwaukee, dog-sitting for a friend and spending some time working on music. There was a pet bird in the house that kept chirping while I was trying to record, so I finally got the idea to include it in the song. I like to think of the extended, unchopped chirping toward the end as a “bird solo”.

Finally, I felt like there needed to be some kind of percussive element in the song. Drums are the main thing that I don’t have access to in my bedroom recording setup, so it’s always a challenge to figure out what to use instead. Often, as in this case, I end up raiding the kitchen, where a plethora of bang-y things can be found. Here I grabbed all of the forks and spoons I could find and recorded several versions of them being dropped, both on the bare hardwood floor, and onto an empty cardboard box with the mic inside. They seem to be appropriately dissonant and whimsical.

Why did I call it “Marigolds”? I think initially I wanted to call it “Dead Flowers,” but that seemed kind of cliched. Marigolds seemed an appropriate substitute, although I can’t say exactly why.

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