the story behind: “living without a sound”

In Owen Sound there is a street corner that has four churches, called Salvation Corners, and a block away is a street corner that has four bars: Damnation Corners. I visited both. From talking to some folks at Damnation Corners, I found out it’s a bit of a tradition to visit the bar on Sunday, shortly after services are done. Most small towns have sub-communities within them and I think this was an example of that: people build their communities around things like going to church, or going to the bar, or maybe a bit of both.

This particular bar was also where I heard the details of the story of an affair that formed the basis for this song. The title is a bit of a play on the town name, but also about keeping a secret, and about staying quiet in a situation that needs discussion. Any small-town affair is an interesting puzzle to me, because they are usually one of those kind of secrets that everyone already knows about. Again there’s a community vibe around keeping this thing under wraps. Do people stay quiet out of a sense of obligation? Because they don’t want to rock the boat? Because they want to give people space to figure out their own problems? Or because it’s easier to turn a blind eye? I’m not sure, probably some combination of reasons, but it seems to be the way of things.

Musically it felt like this thing had to be a slow burn kind of song. I also get these somewhat ridiculous notions in my mind about how to relate the song to the situation. For this song that meant breaking it into sections: there are five sections, and using a limited chord palate. The first four sections share three chords, which are like the three characters in this presumptive love triangle, but each section only features two chords at a time. This all breaks down in the fifth section, the outro, which is supposed to musically indicate an unfolding process of discovery, anger, and an explosion of an argument. It also has some more chords, five of them!, but each one plays out the same length so the bar structure is a bit off-kilter. I don’t really know why I do this kind of thing except that it feels like the way it should be, to me, in order to indicate the emotional background to the story I see in my head. Does it work? I don’t really know…but it definitely makes for songs that are hard to teach to the band, when the time comes.

There’s also three-part harmony the whole way through. Three voices! Get it?

This song also features a “space laser” sound in the outro, which was Laura’s idea and I think it was a great one. We spent a few hours tooling around with analog synthesizers trying to find a specific sound, but the recording actually ended up being a combination of two sounds played together. All I can say is that I have new-found respect for sound design in movies…trying to create sound effects from nothing is a hard business!

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