Music Writing: Variations on the Pop Song “Blow”

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Everyone I know has a song that they don’t like to admit how much they love.  Me… I have several songs.  One of my most recent addictions is a song by the pop star Ke$ha (yes, that is how she spells it) called “Blow.”  I am posting the song from her VEVO station on YouTube below.  A note of caution: the video has absolutely nothing to do with the song.  I would advise listening to it rather than watching it, really.

How many of you listening to this song actually heard the melody?  Don’t get upset, most people I have shown this song to didn’t really hear the melody, as she hides it expertly underneath all kinds of digital techno-tronics.  But I think the melody is actually pretty good.  I would hum it all day after hearing it when it first came out.  It wasn’t until a few days later that I started to think I could write variations on the song.

First, a small primer.  Variations on a song are just that: take a melody from another tune and fit it into different types of music.  It can be as simple or as complex as you want.  In the movie, Amadeus, Mozart pokes fun at competitors’ music in this way.

Classical musicians often wrote variations on a theme.

Lots of people still write in variations, because everyone that enjoys music can come up with their own spin the music if they listen to it long enough.

I love variations because they challenge the composer to stretch her wings and try to write outside her comfort zone. That is what I strove to do.  I only have two complete so far, so the other two I am working on will have to wait until another post (hopefully I will finish them before I pull my hair out).

My first variation is just a piano solo, and a fairly easy one at that.  I thought it would be easy, but alas it was not to be.  At least not for me.  As stated above, there is a lot of technobabble mixed in and over the melody.  Add on top of that the fact that the melody is sung by an autotuned voice.  My Lord, I had to listen to this tune over, and over, and over, and over… Not just the whole song, but bit by bit, two to four seconds at a time.  I would hear a small part, pause to write the melodic part.  Rewind, listen for the harmonic part, pause, write it.  Rewind, listen to make sure it was correct.  Repeat.  Bleh, I started to hate the song by the end of this.  I did it though, and it only took about a week.  Listen below.

Blow – Piano Version

Now, onto something more interesting.  I really don’t know why I chose Bollywood music, other than it’s fun rhythms and catchy appeal.  For those that don’t know Bollywood music, it is a fanfare type of music, with lots of energy, singing and dancing in grand style.  Here is just a taste of Bollywood, one of my favorites “Mere Dholna Sun” from the movie Bhool Bhulaiyaa:

I researched if there were any instruments specific to Indian-Bollywood music, and of course there are several.  I loved listening to samples of these instruments all over YouTube, and there are too many to list here.  If you want a taste of the music, just search these instruments on YouTube for yourself: Sitar, Bansuri, Tambura, Oud, Sarangi.  These are just the instruments used that I have available to me on my Sibelius 7.  I would love to get more familiar with these instruments, but as it would take more time than I intended to spend on this variation, I just substituted extra guitars and percussion.  This was a very fun and surprisingly easy variation to do, considering I have never written any Indian styled music.  It took a little less time than the piano version to do.  Of course, I wasn’t constantly starting and stopping a recording.  I changed the melody a little bit to fit the style of music, and I am enamored of the result.  Enjoy.

Blow Bollywood Version

Well, that is all that I have for now, but I do have two more versions in the works.  The third will be a James Bond style piece, but right now it sounds a little too much like James Bond, and I don’t want to be slaughtered by copyright lawyers.  The last one will be either a melodramatic piece, or a full romantic orchestra piece.  Not romantic like Harlequinn Romances, but Romantic style orchestra.  I will explain more when I have decided which I can actually do.  Hey, maybe I will have three pieces instead of two.  Who knows…

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