The Miser’s Will I: The Cartographer’s Tale
What’s it about?
This is the first song from The Miser’s Will, a series of interlinked songs that share a story and some musical ideas.
There were basically two ideas that drove these songs along. One was the desire to write a set of songs I could actually play live, just me and my guitar. I’m a singer songwriter used to performing as a solo acoustic act, but with Spinning the Compass I foolishly composed a set of songs that were very hard to play in that manner. The Miser’s Will is an attempt to rectify this.
The other impetus was the story itself. I have a habit of emailing myself little snippets of lyrics or ideas. Searching through my inbox I came across an email I didn’t remember sending that said ‘A story about the search for strange artefacts that are used to construct a body’. That’s what the Miser’s Will is all about.
The lyrics are from the POV of a cartographer who recieves one of his own maps with instruction to go to a specific place and dig. He does so, unearths some leather and brass claws, and then follows the instructions that came with the map and letter. These take him into the middle of London, where the dark and deadly ‘man in black’ (the executor) promptly shoots him and nicks the claws.
The Writing Process:
The Cartographer’s tale was written for February Album Writing Month, an online challenge I attempt most years to write an album’s worth of songs in the month of February. What i usually do for this is write very quickly, just acoustic guitar and voice. Here’s the demo, which as you can hear is very similar to the final version of the song.
I was trying a couple of things with this song.
1. As I said, The Miser’s Will was designed to be playable solo. A lot of my previous album was not designed with solo gigs in mind and I wanted to remedy this with the new work.
2. An attempt to combine nerdy time signature changes and two relatively unconnected keys and pop-folk sensibilities
Also of note – the chorus in this song is used elsewhere in the Miser’s Will.
The Recording Process:
The drum kit is made up of various samples of plastic bins and things. The percussion arrangement is inspired by ‘The Flying Chaucers’ and English folk group I heard just before starting to record.
The rest is an attempt at relative minimalism. Which I then decided to fill up with synth lines.
Inspired by/Blatantly steals from:
‘The Flying Chaucers’ and the sort of arepggios Matt Stevens might use.
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