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Up In Flames

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

The Brief

The first brief we were given was to write a song based on The Salem Witch Trials, focusing on key themes rather than a literal narrative, and using an earlier melody exercise as a starting point.


First Response & Inspiration

I was worried about the pairing for this brief - it was the only brief I had prior knowledge of (having heard responses from last year), and so had some pre-existing notions on what to write - gravitating towards the folk end of my genre spectrum. However, I had hoped to pair with Aaron at some point, as I've been experimenting electronically lately (particularly writing on loops, which I knew he preferred), so I scrapped any preconceptions I'd had.


A Collaborating Process

Whilst we had both produced strong melodies during the exercise that morning, they didn’t fit the vibe we were going for, so we instead used the same tactic to create new ones. We decided on key words such as ‘burn’ which we used to structure the introduction and establish the concept of the song. Lyrics came easily after deciding on themes of warning and fire, and we extracted core story elements without being too literal - for example, 'They will whisper troubling lies' implies the rumour mill that was Salem, and its effect.

Writing over loops is interesting, as it requires strong melody and structure in order to keep the listener engaged. Aaron is accustomed to this, common with R&B/hip-hop artists (Bennett, 2011), but I found it a novel challenge. We bounced off each other well - eventual outcomes often the result of Aaron delivering a melody of mine so differently from how I'd performed it, that it completely changed the sound. This is most evident in the chorus, in an almost call-and-answer section, where the same melody is expanded into polyphonic parts (Kokoras, 2005). Aaron's singing style also influenced how I wrote and performed the bridge, as he encouraged me to try rap-singing. In turn, my use of instrumentation affected Aaron structuring the harmonic elements - I doubt anyone has suggested programming tubular bells and a tuba before!

fun fact: I nearly set fire to my flat making this


The Take-Away

Working with Aaron has solidified my interest in electronic music. I find working with loops fascinating, and the opportunities it creates to expand both melodic and harmonic elements very rewarding. Unfortunately, we weren't able to fully act on this without recording, so had to present a live version without all intended vocal layers. There was a brief discussion of expanding the piece horizontally, however we agreed we wanted to continue to build vertically (Kraemer, 2018), and later experimented with vocal layers the way we originally intended in the outro, without changing the loop. The final result is something I am incredibly happy with, and really contemporises the source material given.



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