“New Theme Song” Edition
S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. I’m Steve Inskeep and this is the Slate Culture Gap, this new theme song edition. It’s Wednesday, December 31st, 2014. Happy New Year, Dana.
S2: Happy New Year.
S1: Happy New Year, Julia.
S2: Yeah, with the old and with the new.
S1: Absolutely. Because, well, as you say, we’re doing something different. We’re ushering out our old theme song, which we were all deeply, deeply attached to. And we’re bringing in a new one by your friend, the wonderful composer Nick Brittelle, whose studio we visited together after having given him the most incoherent word salad in the history of such things from which to try to create a new theme song from the show. And he did heroic work. Am I right in estimating that, Julia?
S2: I thought it was pretty fun. But we we went up to a studio a few weeks ago and we’ll play an excerpt of that visit now. But then we’re also going to kind of hash out our our take on his takes here in the studio today and settle on a final theme. But, Steve, because I think that the the irony in your voice was not quite audible, I think I would point out that I don’t think any of the three of us was particularly attached to our old theme song. It was something that was composed for our show when we first got started before the show had really defined and it was composed for the political gabfest, actually. And then we just heard their theme. So, yeah, we’ve never really had a theme of our own, right?
S1: Yeah, yeah. It’s an old issue for which we have some affection and now it’s going into the garbage of Julia where this is really a different show for us. We’ve never done we’ve never done a single topic gabfest in my memory right now.
S2: I don’t think so. So this is our show for the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We’re actually taking the week off, so we’re recording it a week ahead. But we thought it’d be fun to take a little bit of a deeper dive into our new theme song process for you all, because we got to go on this fun field trip to a working music studio, which was fascinating, and then go through a couple of iterations on the songs. So, yeah, we’ll we’ll they’ll be a couple of different components to the show, but it’s all about the theme song.
S1: All right. So the first part of the show is going to be our field trip to Nick Battelle’s home studio. And I can only say that I I had a I had a wonderful time getting to know Nick and in part getting to know Nick through his amazing apartment. I’ve I’ve scarcely ever been in a more sort of beautifully functioning space. Everything was just so just so. And it’s of a piece, I think, Julia, if I’m right, with his creative temperament.
S2: Yeah, I think so. I mean, we’re just sort of in his cozy studio, which basically is like 10000 computers. I mean, not it’s like three computers and three monitors hooked up to a keyboard somehow with some big speakers set up. But it has sort of a NASA like, impressive feeling of arrays of technology surrounding you. Yeah, there’s a lot of technology happening there. I mean, there’s a you know, the apartment is a piano and his wife’s cello. There’s lots of real world stuff there. But the studio we were in was fairly technical feeling and some music books around. And and another thing that we had visual access to in the studio that you won’t hear in the segment is this really great music mixing software that Nick was using the whole time to demonstrate these clips to us. It was it was called Tell Me the name again, Julia Ableton. Ableton, right. Which is something similar to Pro Tools, but that he prefers to Pro Tools and which displays all the instruments that you’re hearing from in this wonderfully analog way. Like if you want to, you can make things look like, you know, a record player or an old fashioned keyboard. Right. And so you’re sort of seeing a visual display of the same thing you’re hearing. Yeah, this. OK, go ahead, Steve.
S1: Yeah. I mean, what’s amazing is you got to see close up what the kind of conditions under which modern composers now work in the age of technology and everything has been digitized. Every sound an orchestra can make every way to filter it through an era. So if you want it to sound like a scratchy record from the, you know, old 78 from the 1920s or 30s when over 78 were common, you can filter it that way. So it’s this embarrassment of riches in a way. I mean, Julia, how does one ever even begin to choose what noises and sounds from the entire universe? You’re Borges universe of sounds to put into a single piece of music.
S2: Right. What really confronted us in the studio, I think, was just the array of potential options to distill all of those possibilities down into like specific compositions with specific sounds and to figure out how the mood and effect of a particular track, where it comes from, whether it comes from these particular sonic elements, whether it’s the melody, whether it’s the rhythm, whether it’s the tempo, whether it’s how the things are all stitched together in the mix. It brought home to me in a real way just how many different potential ways there are for any given song to sound, which makes you appreciate the specificity of any given song that you do enjoy.
S1: All right, well, why don’t we why don’t we listen to what we came up with and what Nick came up with?
S3: Hey, Nick. Hey, how are you guys doing?
S1: It’s great to meet you in the flesh.
S3: Absolutely. Good to have you guys here.
S2: Do you feel like maybe we should refresh our audience as to what we what the assignment was? Because as I recall, we threw, like a word salad at you.
S3: Yes, there were there were a lot of different ideas that were presented for for exploration of what we would do with the music. And there were various things from poly vocal to represent your three voices, words like granola, Kierkegaard, Gamla and Shpilkes were mentioned a Strutt quality, something that could challenge people but doesn’t trouble the conscience. I think was I think was mentioned. Some of the takeaways were it felt like we should try having some sort of a beat felt interesting. Also, guitar seemed to be something which wasn’t absolutely necessary. But a lot of the things that you listen to or talked about felt like they had a guitar element that you liked. So some of the stuff that I have here has a guitar and a few of the other terms. There was non Western pop Indonesian bird song was mentioned Swedish, IMO. One of the big takeaways actually, which I did put in all the tracks pretty much was the idea. It felt like some sort of a story being told through the course of the track so that it wasn’t just like one piece of music, it was actually something which started with one thing and then sort of morphed a little bit and then morphed a little bit. So there’s actually three section kind of very short, but three sections in each one where it starts with something. Many of them start with something that’s almost in the vein of what you had mentioned and of the sort of like cinematic, you know, like an old kind of jazz piano a little bit. And then it morphs into something and then it morphs into something with the beats. So there’s various things there that there’s like an evolution in the tracks.
S2: On a scale of one to 10, how bananas was this creative brief like that was like that was like a lot of different adjectives and words that we excitedly threw at you
S3: on a scale of one to 10, I would put it maybe like a like a solid seven. It wasn’t this wasn’t a ten. Ten, ten is is hard to attain but but it was a seven I think just because there was a variety of different directions and because of that, that actually led me to make quite a few different tracks actually, just because I think to some extent, instead of just me going off and making one thing that somehow amalgamated, you know, all of these things felt very difficult. So was it was it was not unchallenging.
S2: Shall we hear one of the tracks?
S3: Sure. Let’s get going. So I think I’ll start with the this was the first track that I recorded. And this one was very directly sort of like trying to hit the nail on the head with very specifically Kierkegaard, Birdsong and Gimel on
S4: Fourth of July, which was disappointing. And what blind spot what you want to talk about?
S1: Oh, OK. We’ve brought the podcasting revolution to a close one.
S2: So whose voice was that reading me?
S3: That’s actually me reciting Kierkegaard. And I manipulated my voice a little bit. So it sounded a little, you know, different from my voice. It’s it’s pitch lower. But but yeah, that was so that was definitely intended with, you know, a sort of lighthearted look at the music. But but yeah, that’s that’s a combination. That’s actual birdsong. That’s that’s a sample of birdsong that I found. And then there’s there’s some Gamla and layered and there’s two Gavilan layers there. And then there’s me reading Kierkegaard and there’s also there’s also some vinyl, you know, that I added in here this sort of sound. So actually, if you can see this is like some of the sounds individually, you can hear like this is is the Kierkegaard. And here’s the quote actually where it’s from either or you go, so. So there you go. So that was the first that was that I was going. That’s like Kierkegaard. Now, here are some of the actual music tracks. This is an early idea that I actually had that was multipart. So it starts with an old sounding sort of piano that I made sound like an old recording. Then it morphs into some gamelan and then it goes into rock. It actually that was more upbeat and had a very sort of positive. Feeling that felt like similar to some the rapids that you guys had mentioned. So I’ll play this one for. That’s the rock one,
S2: the amount of joy and promise that that holds forth is so much more than I could ever deliver.
S1: I know at the end of that comes my voice.
S2: You’d be expecting Bono to walk out to a stadium crowd of tens of thousands after that. I love the way that the layered parts worked together at the beginning there, though, like I think the way they, like, cast into the piece of music feels right to me. What do you guys think of that part? I agree. The moment the guitar kicks in is something we could actually go with, but something about that emotional build afterwards just it just ends up being sort of too daunting for our low key vibe.
S1: I love it and it’s self-effacing. I love it here. Now come our opinion.
S2: I grab
S3: his camera.
S2: Well, one thing that strikes me about this is that it’s hard to figure out which parts of that rock track feel like overwhelming, like it feels very early 90s, like alt pop to me. Like it sounds a lot like Velocity Girl basically, which is a band that I really liked. But we are not Velocity girl, but I can’t figure out if that’s like, is it the chords or is it the instrument, is it the tempo. Like I’m Batta listening to music. So like what are the parts of that track that add up to making it feel like more overwhelmingly excited than we are.
S3: Yeah. And actually I sort of anticipated that because this was this was a very early version I did to show just taking away like looking at some of the comments specifically and be like, well, what I write. But I did feel that maybe I was a little too, you know, up and a little too kind of like raring to go kind of a thing. So the types of things that I think you would then change, you know, if you liked the the tonal colors and the palette of sounds like if you like racketeering, you like the beat, you could lower the tempo, which changes things a lot. You could also change the types of chords and harmonies that are used. So I did a version of that were actually I took that same track and then recalibrated a bit where it still starts similarly with the first two elements with the piano, and then it goes into a sort of transition thing. But then the guitar part that comes in isn’t quite as uplifting in a sense. It’s not as happy. It’s not as sort of like, you know, skys or, you know, bright everything. Here we go. You know, so I’ll play that one now and this one. So what I did was actually musically, I added more minor chords to the harmonies, actually. So they’re not all quite as sunny in a way. And this one still has that has an alt rock vibe to it. But I think is more it’s a little more thoughtful, but it’s a little bit it’s a little less like overtly sunny. So there’s this
S2: I love that one. I feel like that’s that sounds a lot like the one I was custom ordering. I don’t know if I don’t think we talked about typewriter keyboard sounds, but that seems kind of perfect for the bookishness of the enterprise.
S3: I thought that was a fun little addendum to it, to have an actual typewriter that actually is going through the whole. It’s playing underneath the entire Rojak
S1: sound to anyone else, like is it reminiscing a little bit of three Goth kids planning a murder
S3: or is that just me?
S2: That seems appropriate enough to me. I was getting like a Tim Burton goes to a rock show. There’s something about the the melody felt a little like, oh, magical, strange things are about to happen, but. Yeah, but yeah. So that felt, the chords felt different. It felt slightly slower. Or did just the chords make it sound slower.
S3: Interestingly, I think this one is a little bit slower. I did that consciously and also there are a few different instruments on this one. I added a there’s a subtle rock organ mixed into it that does that kind of melody that you noticed. And also there are different there’s actually some different guitar sounds on that one and the transition is a little different. So it is kind of how it led into it was very subtly different. But overall, it was all about trying to take that like the the emotional resonance of it from being all excited and and happy into more a slightly more, you know, contemplative place
S2: that went to me the most had the sound of a whole bunch of different heterodox influences coming together into one melody, which is sort of what I envisioned when you came in to talk to
S3: us. Awesome. Well, that’s absolutely my my goal was to have it feel like it’s one thing, but it’s one thing that is made of many different things. And I think the, you know, the old piano. And then there’s the gamelan and the typewriter and the Byrds. There’s definitely birds. But I’ll go through there’s there’s so there’s there’s more ideas. There’s now actually have two more versions.
S2: Nick, before we move on to the other tracks, I thought it would be cool if our listeners could hear some of the individual little lines that you added. And I want to describe where we are. So we’re in your music studio, which is a room in your house, and it’s full of like more computer and speaker equipment than I’ve ever seen and a program that I’ve never seen, which seems to break out all the different individual lines of these compositions, like it looks like Excel, like it looks like you’re like you’re doing a budget or something, except it’s music. What what is this, a budget of beauty
S3: and aesthetic budget? Yeah, this is so different. Composers have different programs that they use. I used to use a program called Pro Tools, which I still have, and I do a lot of music mixing and pro tools. But this is a program that I really, really love, which I think many DJs used, but not as many composers use as should with my plug for Ableton Live. And it is a fantastic program. It’s unbelievably fast. It’s unbelievably powerful, and it lets you it’s you know, so what we’re looking at is basically this is a visual display of all of the different audio tracks in the recording. And what you can do is each of these channels is one of the sounds. And you can look at each of these and you can solo them and you can see what the sound is. You can see the different types of effects or plug ins that I’m putting on it. So as an example here, let’s look at this old piano. So this here is the old piano sound so loud. Renzo Piano, and the way I made that was this is actually this is an interesting sound. This is a plug in, which is a sample of Alicia Keys is piano. Actually, she made this plug in and this is her piano. So each key and the piano was sampled out so you can actually play it. And then what I did to create that cool texture was I put a plug in on here where I actually ran it through a old record player. So if you turn this off, you can see this is the sound of the actual piano. This. Which is still nice and I put some various effects on that, but then if you put it through the record player now, so that will tend to give it that sort of and you can even see this this record player sound is from I believe this is 90. That’s a nineteen sixty sort of record player that’s run through and then each layer represents something different. So here is the the vinyl sample, which I made right there. That’s actual just record player vinyl. And here’s the organ that I mentioned that comes in later. And I think is the part that maybe you’re referring to. And then there’s actually a small guitar underneath that one just to give it a little texture to. And then you can see when you add different elements to the mix, here’s the typewriter and here’s like another rock guitar that’s going on under a. Different elements that add up. And then when you actually play the whole thing together.
S6: Individual parts like.
S3: So you have a lot of flexibility over all the elements, but there’s almost too much flexibility. Yeah, I’ll play the next one here is still rock related, but it’s more kind of expansive. I don’t know how I would like a more expansive, contemplative rock. There’s more piano in this one. And this track has started a similar way, goes into more of a it’s not quite as I don’t think it’s quite as upbeat. It’s more and in some ways it feels epic, but not sunny as sunny to me. I’ll just play it.
S1: I love the way that it all drops out until it’s nothing but the swelling strings, it’s so perfect.
S2: So that’s a beautiful piece of music, but it’s so melancholic. I’m not sure that I would want to just jump into a podcast that started with something that contemplative. I feel like I would need to go smoke a cigarette and look at the rain first. I actually had the same response. Time is feeling like the end felt. There’s something about the way that the sound fell out that felt really good. I don’t know exactly what it was. I felt on point. It feels a little bit like the expansiveness feels good. It feels like you have to forgive my like limited music vocabulary or something like slightly like Moby ish about it or something like slightly. It feels a little bit like weird like snake oil salesmen with the cult of the culture fasters like if it puts the Caulton culture first maybe or something, there’s something like what’s the right word? It’s like you’re going on a big psychic ride, which maybe the show is a big psychic ride.
S1: I really like that. I like I like the idea that the like just to be kind of crushingly literal, that the rock beat part of it is the actual discussion and the swelling strings are kind of after lingering after a thought of our wisdom in the heads of our listeners
S3: and also this one. So interestingly, I was thinking of you when I read this,
S3: I was thinking this was like this was the one I remember we talked about Lennie Tristano and you talked a little bit about something atonal and not unchallenging. And I think you said or was it here you said pleasingly atonal with moments of resolution and clarity, but overall not unchallenging. You also mentioned Rite of Spring with shpilkes. Yes, but I didn’t.
S2: And you’re talking here about the track we just heard. Not the one we’re about to hear.
S3: Yeah, that one. So this one I was thinking and with the strings at the end, I was thinking of some of those kind of feelings. But this was definitely intended to be more of like a sort of antithesis in some ways to the the sunny. This was a response to how Sunny the other one felt.
S2: So, Nick, are we down to our last sample?
S3: I think we are. This is so this is another one where, again, intro sections are similar. This one has more of like a I don’t want to say a hip hop beat, but this has more of sort of RMV style hip hop beat a little bit. The drums are bigger, but the tempo is slower. And this is, again, more in the contemplative kind of range. So it may be, you know, to to sad, but maybe not at the same time, because it’s hard to know just by looking at tempo and things how it’s going to feel until you actually experience the whole thing. So I’m curious your thoughts on this.
S1: I really like that may be my favorite, if it could end with swelling Szpilka strings, maybe,
S3: and we could definitely end with swelling strings.
S2: What do you think, Julia? To me, that doesn’t capture our our essence at all. I feel like that that that’s way more like a loungy experience that I can provide to anyone. I just love that as a piece of music. I think that’s the one thing that’s hard about listening to this. Like, I feel like I want to play that in my head all the time. But then trying to figure out if that’s what we conjure or want to conjure is the harder question. I know that he has like this Vince Guaraldi sadness to it, that piano melody, it just has this terrible, kind of sad Charlie Brown. It’s very winning. It’s really lovely. But but I do feel like it puts you into a very I don’t know, just a very thoughtful headspace, but thoughtful, not bad. That was kind of where we want to leave people. Right. I guess it seems like the big bands we’re trying to strike is between energy, like what is the right energy to leave someone in? We want a little more energy than we’ve got and then affect. Right. Like you want people to be open minded, to be ready for complexity, for them to be like, OK with irresolution. And so it’s like it’s amazing. It’s left us in like four very different directions here. And I don’t know, I like them. Oh, crap.
S1: So those two I like I like the second one, which is the super peppy hard rock and indie rock and one and the last one, which is Lennie Tristano meets, you know, Arkley or whatever it is, I don’t know. And that gives it this floor, this kind of solidity, which I kind of like. I just like that combination. I think it’s a I think it’s a really cool way to go into the show.
S2: I love the ending of the second one. And I wonder we
S3: can definitely put that on the first one with the typewriter. Kind of I can
S2: look back in. I wonder if the piece of music could be constructed such that you’d hear the beginning, Steve, or do the intro of the show. And then when he kicked the intro of this show, you heard the ding. And then it was sort of like, OK, now the show’s begun. Like like the the piece of music could interact with the top of the show in a slightly different way than it currently does.
S1: I love that idea. Yeah. Because this music is incredibly good and apt and I hate the idea that we’re going to only hear a tiny little bit of it. I love the idea of the vocal intro as interacting with the the pattern of that week after week. Interacting with the pattern of the music I think is great.
S2: But that would also mean that the middle section would have to be, if this makes sense, it would have sort of have to be enough of a bland, continuous cushion that depending on how long the intro lasted on a given week, you could edit it differently.
S3: So we can wherever you guys want, we can make it work
S1: for the record. Then I can turn any introduction to this show into a bland continuous.
S2: Maybe this should be the bland continuous push in addition. But I have a question for you, Nick, just more generally about how you deal with this. So now I’ve heard each of these songs and I feel already like Robert Parker, like they talk about Robert Parker, the wine critic, like he’s tasted so many robust wines. That is his, you know, taste buds are shot and he can’t tell anything anymore. So the only wines that he likes are just these, like, super crazy ones. Like, how do you even keep all this in your head? Like now, basically, and I feel this way with music generally, like if I listen to an album, I’m like. And then once I listen to that album 10 times, I’m like, I love these songs. Like for me, familiarity breeds fondness with music. So now every time I listen to each one of these tracks, I’m like, oh, like I’m just like a cat with a ball of string. I feel like it’s very hard to retain any kind of discernment. How do you not drive yourself crazy going through different iterations for this project or any project?
S3: It’s a really good question. I think that in general, the first goal of any composition is always you have to write something that you like yourself. So I think that’s always my first goal is to make something. And if I don’t like it, then I just keep trying to find something until I do like it. And then there’s usually a point after about depends how many hours. Maybe if you’re you know, if I’m in the studio here and it’s like four or five hours into working on one track, I lose absolutely all perspective and I can’t. And you have absolutely no idea if it’s good or not. So oftentimes you sort of put something to the side and then come back to it and and you never know how you’re going to reexperience the music, which is what’s so fascinating and crazy about it. You know, there are times where I’ll write something and I’m like, this is absolutely amazing. And then a week later, I’ll listen to it. I’m like, what was I thinking? And then and then the opposite is true to where I’ll write something. I’ll be like, Oh my God, I’m not feeling this. It feels, you know, like I feel lost. And then to, you know, two weeks later I come back to it and I’ll be like, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever done. So so it’s almost unknowable, but you do need a little bit of distance from it. And going back to it definitely helps you gain that perspective, because in the moment, you you certainly lose your ability to sort of judge things, I think.
S2: Well, you’re probably going to try to be objective about it and let us choose. But do you have are you getting a strong favorite during this listening session?
S3: You know, I I like all of them in different ways. I think on a musical level, my favorite is probably the last one. I think that one just resonates for me, you know, musically, the way the harmonies work, the genre, like I love hip hop and RB and I feel that one feels it almost has sort of like a kind of also even like a Stevie Wonder ish kind of thing, maybe with it. So I like that one a lot. I also but I like them all. I don’t really have a preference. And and very much it’s I was trying to come up with different paths so that you guys could have the most, you know, palette of options.
S2: So because this has been such an influx of exciting sounds, some of them not that distinctly differentiated from each other, I think we need to go through and just for my own sanity nickname, these tracks. So we have some sense of which are the what are we calling the different ones that are under consideration. All right. So the first one was Kierkegaard, which frankly, I think you guys have written off the Kierkegaard track way too fast. That thing was kind of hilarious. Then there was the sunny guitar. Then there was the melancholy guitar. Then there was Moby on the cliffs of more. And then there was the R&D law firm. So Sun guitar, melancholy guitar, Moby on the cliffs of more down. Yeah. Oh, all right. OK, maybe we should just go with Kierkegaard. We haven’t really given that serious consideration.
S1: Not Kierkegaard.
S2: This was all just a long con to get Steve to disavow Kierkegaard.
S1: Oh yeah.
S2: OK, so our votes are Steve really like Sunee guitar and R and B law firm. Dana thinks Sun guitar might be a little bit too much to live up to, and she was into melancholy guitar. But I’m also a fan of R and B law firm and I like whichever track I’ve heard most recently because I’m an impressionable nitwit. But I actually I my initial response to Sun guitar was that it was too sunny. But now that I’m getting more familiar with it and imagining it, actually the guitar part more falling out and going under. Steve, under Steve’s intro, I can imagine some version of the Sun guitar that could work, too. You also were quite partial to Moby on the moor, weren’t you? Like I said, I like them totally unifying. All my decisive editorial prowess falls away in the face of music tracks. I’m just I yeah, I’m going to have to sit with these tracks for a little bit, I think. Nick, thank you so much for all the work that you put into these tracks. It’s been it’s amazing to have these conjured from nothingness and they’re beautiful. So thank you.
S3: Thank you, guys. This is really fun. I really, really enjoyed going through all of the different ideas and explorations of this. So I’m excited to see which ones you come to with your with your feelings.
S2: So I think what we’ll do is we’re going to live with the tracks for a couple of days, discuss them, maybe send you a couple notes for ideas and tweaks, and then we’ll settle on a final selection. Awesome.
S1: All right. Well, we’re back in our own studio. It’s now a couple of weeks, three weeks later, we’ve had a chance to sit with these. I will say, Julia, it seems to me that we’re judging them by two, maybe completely separate standards, first as pieces of music and second, as theme music to our specific show. Did you find it hard to go back and forth between considering them in these separate lights?
S2: Well, just in listening to the pieces of music, since we met with Nick and his studio, I found myself most drawn to RMV law firm as a piece of music. And I sort of share Dana’s feeling in the studio that day that it was a great piece of music. But was it really us? And maybe the guitar ones were more ask what can we say? We’re all aging creatures of the early 90s anyway. So that kind of velocity, girl style, clang, clang, guitar maybe was more apropos, but just like, what do I like to listen to? I liked the R&D law firm track. And I think in part I mean, one thing we talked about a little bit in the studio was about the beats per minute, like the actual speed of the rhythms of the various tracks. And the the army law firm was the slowest, by far the slowest. But something that helped me realize is that for all that I love STREAT, I actually found that the slower beat was steadier than the faster beat, which isn’t necessarily what you would assume. But there’s like a certain syncopated emphasis to the RB law firm track that felt studier to me then the guitar, which was like a driving rhythm but less of a steady rhythm. So I ended up kind of liking RB law firm best. How about you guys? You know, I think what happened to me, Julia, is exactly what you described in the studio where familiarity bred affection. Because my initial reaction to R and B, well, I thought it was a beautiful piece of music and maybe the most melodic in terms of just a pure melody rather than a kind of ambient sound. I didn’t feel like it was us in the studio. And then the more I started to listen to it in, the more that you guys responded to it. I don’t know. Now, that feels more like our theme to me. De de de de de de de de is something that you can hum. What about you, Steve?
S1: I was always partial to combine kind of all the elements I thought we needed, which was something. Strully Well, let me back up a little bit. I loved first of all, I loved every piece of music that he created for us and was in awe of his creativity.
S2: Right. And creative energy
S1: and his responsiveness to the freaking incoherent verbal barrage that we grew up with initially, that that that that was the garbage, the garbage we put garbage in and out came beautiful. Music is amazing. But I did think that the driving kind of guitar driven rockers, the happy one and the sad one I preferred the happy by far were too. You felt as though it was the beginning of The Daily Show or Colbert. There was a live studio audience going, like, juiced up and jazzed up and we would come prancing out on stage, which is not a week to week vibe for us. And so as much as I love them, I just didn’t think it was right for us. I thought the Moby on the cliffs with the sweeping strings was fantastic. I loved the first version of it that we. Heard where all of the backing music drops out and you just have to sweep this brontosaur sweep of these strings, but that made me feel as though I would need to dress up and star in a meatloaf video maybe. And that that didn’t quite fit for us either. And at the end of the day, I just kind of love, you know, you say Vince Guaraldi, I would say maybe a little bit. Lennie Tristano, Bill Evans, that kind of slightly poignant piano music underneath, which is the cha cha cha of those drums, captures some some of what we’re about somehow.
S2: Well, one other thing we asked our producer and Heppermann to do to help us understand this is so as as pieces of music, we all kind of evolved a little bit toward our law firm. But I definitely wondered if that was just if that was appropriate for our show still. But then we asked entertainment appartement just dummy up the top of the show because we realized that, you know, these are fairly long pieces of music. It’s not like we’re going to have two minutes of sound before Steve starts talking. So actually what’s going to be most sonically important for listeners is the thing that’s fairly similar across all of these compositions, which is the little combo of gamelan and birdsong and Dana fight noises that launches the show. And Steve’s going to come in and talk over these various tracks. So with with all of the tracks still in the running we had and dummy up a version of Steve talking over the music. And I think that was clarifying, too. Why don’t we play a couple of those? We placed an old Steve intro tract over the happy guitar. Yeah, let’s keep it up.
S1: I’m Stephen Metcalf, and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest, Rock, Paper, Scissors edition. It’s Wednesday, December 10, 2014. They Show Wild is the new film from the director of Dallas Buyers.
S2: All right. So that was happy guitar. Let’s quickly do melancholy guitar. Let’s just run through it and then we can discuss. All right. Melancholy guitar with Steve.
S1: I’m Stephen Metcalf, and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest, Rock, Paper, Scissors edition. It’s Wednesday, December 10th, 2014. Today Show Wild is the new film from the director of Dallas Buyers Club.
S2: All right, let’s do Steve plus clips of more.
S1: I’m Stephen Metcalf, and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest, Rock, Paper, Scissors edition. It’s Wednesday, December 10th, 2014. Today Show Wild is the new film from the director.
S2: All right. And finally, Steve Plus R&D law firm.
S1: I’m Stephen Metcalf, and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest, Rock, Paper, Scissors edition. It’s Wednesday, December 10th, 2014. Today Show Wild is the new film director.
S2: So my main thought on listening to all of these was just like, wow, the guitar with the talking over. It does not work. Like there needs to be space in the sound for Steve’s voice. And the guitar kind of disappears under his voice and just becomes a vague sonic bed, whereas the theme of of RB is really discernible even under his watch. Yeah, you can kind of feel the pace and the rhythm and the melody of it, but it doesn’t just feel like we’ve had to reduce the volume so far that it becomes like a little buzzing drone underneath. Steve talking for me these tracks where the cementing ones that were like, OK, I think I can just like hear Orombi law firm working in a way that the other ones wouldn’t work as well in contact. Yeah, I’m kind of amazed that in the studio we had some divergence, but I feel like we’ve all naturally, without even having to really argue our point, converge onto the same one.
S1: I love the thing that’s common to all of them, which is that kind of mnemonic, what will become, I hope, a mnemonic jog at the beginning, a Pavlovian jog at the beginning of them, which is that intro piano. Then the ambient sounds, which are birdsong, which is great. And then that one squawk, which to me just is like, yeah, here comes the here comes the gabfests.
S2: I think Julia needs to identify all the birds whose birdsong we hear the bird or I think Nick does know. I think we could get that annotated. Maybe that can be a slate plus feature for Future Day.
S1: The squawk is Alicia Keys. They think,
S2: no, no way, man. I don’t think she’s even capable of making that sound. But. Right. I think what this crystallizes is that set of sounds at the beginning is going to become the actual thing that people kind of can hear in their head, even if it’s not playing, if they listen to the show a lot and then the music itself and melody is more of a sound bed to go under, Steve. But I think, you know, hearing these tracks and realizing how much emphasis there would be on that opening set of music, we did have a couple of notes for Nick that we sent back to him. One note that I had was that I thought the typewriter came in a little bit too loud and was like it was so typewriter. And we kind of liked that organic specific sound. But we were like, when is the last time any of us used a typewriter? Like, it’s kind of journalism in a generalized His Girl Friday kind of way, but it’s not necessarily didn’t seem like it needed quite as much emphasis as it had in that mix. So we sent him back a couple notes that maybe would be interesting to try some digital sounds or get a typewriter going in there for like a little moment of punctuation or I think, Dana, you had some ideas to add, some radio sounds or just play with that. Yeah, I guess just to work in some other media specifically, if possible, something that was a 21st century media sound, which is sort of hard to come up with. You know, what would that be, the startup sound of a computer or the woosh of a text being sent or something? And a lot of those sounds are proprietary sounds, actually. So we had to be creative there. And we also talked about audio sounds like Mike sounds or radio sounds or something that seems to have to do with the history of the media of Crackle maybe actually working. And so we asked Nick to play around with that sound mix a bit and also to play with the time to see if we could make it a little bit tighter. So there would be slightly shorter piece of music before Steve started talking. Then there was another note from our producer, Ann, who noted who is married to a composer and much more musically adept than any of us, I think it’s fair to say. But she was thinking about it logistically in terms of putting Steve’s into over that music week to week. You know, one thing you could just do is have the sound slowly fade out towards the end of Steve’s intro. And that’s a fine way to do it and something many other shows do. But if we want the song to consistently end at the end of Steve’s intro, like and the third topic is, you know, the Sony hacks and then the music stops and says, hey, Steve says, hey, Dana. Hey, Julia. It needs to be a piece of music that can be very variable and length down to specific different lengths of time that Steve’s intro is. And so she was pointing out that the melody there was like hard to just abruptly stop in the middle at any point where Steve started talking and she wondered if there could be a little tailpiece or some sort of vampi that would keep on going, that would keep going, but be a two bar riff instead of a four bar riff. So that would be easier to loop and definitely under Steve until he stopped talking. So we sent back to Nick those notes to see if he could mix up the sounds, tighten the intro and possibly play with a tuba bit at the end of the track. And he sent us back to new versions. So. So we play those. Sure. So I guess let’s play them first on Steve and then we’ll throw Steve on top. So at the top, there were a couple of different sounds in there, right? What did you hear, Dana? They seemed like there was some room noise. There was a part that almost sounded like people talking at a party or something like that that I don’t remember hearing. It’s a little cocktail chatter. I think it’s a I think they said it was a little bit of subway sound that he mixed in to New York quite a bit. And there was also a bit of a radio Morse code bleep bleep bleep bleep kind of sound at the beginning. In addition to the typewriter. I liked all that stuff, but I’m falling into a thing where I like everything I hear. What do you think? What did you think of the top?
S1: I kind of love that added ambient sounds. I think they’re really cool. But I’m having the Robert Parker problem, Julia, that you alluded to, which is, you know, kind of every sip of wine is delicious, but tastes like the last.
S2: Right. All right. Well, the last iteration is, I think that same top, but with the and special Ann Heppermann Toubab request thingamajig at the end. So let’s play this final version from Nick.
S1: Lisa, I’m going to punt, Dana, what are you. Which one do you prefer?
S2: I can respond more pungently. I think that’s it. I think that’s our theme. The top is great. Thanks. That little thing at the end gives and some freedom to play around with what she does with it. We all like at this point, the RB music theme itself. I mean, it just it seems like it’s asking for the moon to ask for anything better than the nomics. Now, I really love it. It feels like our theme already. Like I feel like that’s our show.
S1: You know what? I was going to say it, but I wasn’t confident. But I agree. I think you’re right.
S2: All right. Well, the long our long national nightmare is over, and that’s the culture. Gabfest has a new theme song. Hurray!
S1: All right. Well, next time you hear the show, that’ll be the theme song to it, I think with we found our baby and we’re adopting it and swaddling and, you know, and making it our own.
S2: All right. Thanks to Nick Brittelle. Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, I can’t wait to hear how it sounds in our first show of 2015.
S1: All right, well, now is the moment in our podcast where we endorse Dana. What do you have?
S2: OK, so I’ve got a high brow endorsement this week. So the British actress Billie Whitelaw died this week at age 82. And she is an actress who’s very, very strongly associated with Samuel Beckett. She was his favorite actress. He wrote many parts, especially for her, namely the part of Winnie and Happy Days, which is one of his most famous plays, which is a play that takes place in tight with the character, the main character when he buried up to her neck in sand for the entire entire show. And and Billie Whitelaw, this part was created for her. And there are legendary stories about her and her interpretation of it. And I discovered upon doing some research after her death that the entire Samuel Beckett directed version of Happy Days from 1979, starring Billie Whitelaw, is on YouTube in two acts. So this is a very demanding theater to view, especially because it was directed by Beckett himself. So I’m presuming that it’s quite gloomy and long, but I’m very excited to watch it. And I just wanted to let you all know that if you go on YouTube and look for Happy Days, 1979, you can see Beckett exactly as Beckett wanted. Beckett performed directed by him with the actress that he once called the perfect actress in a title role. And this screen shot on Dana screen right now is just this like sort of blonde 60s. This woman like literally sitting in a pile of dirt. It’s like up to her waist, I believe. Now, I can’t remember. I’ve only read this play, never seen it before, but I believe she’s buried up to her head at the beginning and then in the second actually emerges. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Spoiler listeners can tell me maybe she gets deeper in the sand. That’s very scary. And that she would get deeper actually that I think about it. Dirt pile spoiler. Yeah, I can’t imagine that she’s emerging. It only makes sense if she gets deeper. Yeah. I think in act two you only see her head and for all I know she’s she’s sucked in by the end. Anyway, this is definitely not going to be uplifting viewing. But but if you happen to be interested in experimental theater and Samuel Beckett and Billie Whitelaw as I am, I’m going to explore at some point when I have a couple of gloomy hours to pass this version of Happy Days,
S1: got a couple of Vicodin and Bourbon to go with it. That sounds awesome. Julia, what do you have?
S2: I actually have a Nicholas Brittelle related endorsement. So Nick, the composer, came up with our R&D law firm theme, also worked on a movie that I may have talked about on the show at some point. But it’s a great film that you should watch if you haven’t seen it. It’s called Gimme the Loot. And it’s a one crazy night or a few crazy days narrative about two young friends, graffiti artists in New York who have the goal of tagging the Apple at Citi Field at Shea Stadium. And they are trying to scrape together the resources to go do that. And while doing so, they trip through a whole different set of tranches of New York City and their relationship with each other and the rest of the world develops. And it’s just a really funny, smart, sweet, talky film. It was written and directed by a friend of mine, Adam Leon. And Nick did some of the music for it. And, you know, when your friends, like, work on an art project for a really long time and then you are going to see that art project and you kind of hope it’s good, but you don’t know. I had a great experience with this film of like, you know, Adam had just disappeared for a year and a half and then it was premiering at South by Southwest. And I happened to be there. So I went and got to see the premiere of it and I loved it. And there’s no better feeling than purely genuinely loving and reveling in the creative product of a dear friend. It’s just a really funny, sweet, talky, lovely movie. I don’t know. Did either of you guys ever see it? I did. I saw Gimme the Loot and I was very, very fond of it. It’s got a very particular it’s like a tiny little social satire of sort of parts of New York culture that you don’t often see satirized. And it’s also a very gentle, loving one. Yeah, it’s a it’s a sweet and lovely and charming film and the music. And it is terrific, too. So check out Gimme the Loot if you’re looking for something to watch over this holiday break.
S1: Oh, that sounds cool, so, yes, it is true, there’s nothing better than friends working on a creative project and it debuting with you and you liking it is an enormous relief. There’s nothing better unless it’s mixing Vicodin and bourbon. But the truth is the truth is I want to say that I don’t mix Vicodin and bourbon and I’m not in any way inclined to do so for the record, proof of which is that I’m having, like, incredible old man dental problems that score me all kinds of completely legal prescription painkillers, which I never take. I still have every single fucking one of them except from the day after the extraction. Steve, you’re like for the
S2: record, I was for a hit.
S1: I know. Well, anyway, for the record, like, there’s nothing funny about drinking bourbon and taking a Vicodin, so shame on me. And to prove it, I’m going to endorse the band, The War on Drugs, which is I know they’ve been around for like eight or nine years and everyone’s already discovered them eight times over before I did. But that’s the thing about being a toothless old man. It comes too late, but in the form of wisdom and and ethereal delight. I love that band. I really like them. I heard about them for years, but now I’m finally getting into it. I think their music is great. Tell me I’m right. Tell me I’m wrong. Send us an email. And then also there’s a great Springsteen unexpected Springsteen cover that I came across YouTube the other day, which is Jarvis Cocker, formerly of the Brit pop band Pulp does a cover now live very often of State Trooper, the Springsteen song, which is I mean, you can be the most devoted, you know, anti Springsteen zealot. And I think you’d have to admit that Nebraska is a great album and state trooper is just a harrowing cut from that record. And Jarvis Cocker does it really well. It’s on YouTube. Check it out. All right. Thanks, Dana.
S2: Thanks, Steve.
S1: Thanks, Julia. Thank you. You’ll find links to some of the things we talked about today at our show page Slate dot com slash culture fest. And you can email us Culture Fest at Slate Dotcom or drop us a note at our Facebook page, Facebook dot com culture fest. Our producer is an Heppermann. Our intern is Josephine Livingston, the managing producer of Slate podcasts is Joel Meyer, the executive producer of Slate. Podcasts is Andy Bowers. And our Twitter feed is Slate called Fest for Dana Stevens and Julia Turner. I’m Stephen Metcalf. Thank you so much for joining us. And we look forward to hearing on Nick Brittelle theme song. Introduce us next week
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