Merchants & Liars

Merchants & Liars by Hot Cognition
I thought this would be a fitting first post to my portfolio.  This is a composition from my progressive rock band Hot Cognition.  I remember wanting the string trio I wrote in the song so badly we delayed the entire album several months to find students to help us play it.  I really like the juxtaposition of the strings to the rest song.  I wrote the original “give back what you owe” motif in my first ever music theory course at Hendrix College.  I held on to it for over a year in my head before finally getting to re-arrange and use it here (it’s at 1:57 and 5:57).  My band-mate, Reed, is responsible writing for the 6/8, 8/8 alternating time signature riff around 2:47–very cool stuff.  The “big rock” sound (3:47) was also a ‘legacy’ motif from my younger days, I always joked it was my “invincible star” theme if I ever got to write for a video game.  Turns out later at Full Sail University I got to do a short for a student film club that was video game inspired, and I finally got to use it as my invincible power-up.

The poly-meter near the end (5:01) was originally a super-ambitious idea that we felt was just too inaccessible to do (yes more inaccessible than a poly-meter!).  If you are of keen ears, you may have noticed near the end that the piano and guitar are no longer doing the 6/8, 8/8 alterations that they used to the first time you heard the motif.  They now each introduce a third variation, neither 6/8 or 8/8, that displaces them rhythmically from the drums & bass.  Adding convolutions, piano’s displacement riff does not match the guitar’s displacement riff.  The original idea was to have the piano, guitar, and bass all have three different variations of different time signatures and to select which one to play at random on the fly.  The result would mean after about 5 loops, there is almost no chance of playing the song the same way ever again.  As a band, we really liked it this way, but if you didn’t know what was happening then it sounded too chaotic (the non-random poly-rhythm present in the song already looses most people the first time they hear it).

Anyways, like I said, a introductory post because it captures a lot of the elements that I desire when composing.  The string trio represents my love of counter-point and textured movement as studies in the form of beauty.  The chorus represents my love of rock and roll, the lyrics are a glimpse into my own personal philosophy, and the poly-rhythms represent my dedication to exploring and personalizing musical complexities that are all to often neglected.

Pleased to meet you, I’m Philip Spann.

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