DNX Music | Fifes, drums, and rock n’ roll, pt. 2

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Hannah A. Papasin
Writer. Critic. Professor. She started writing since primary school and now has two published textbooks on communication. A film buff, she's a Communication, Media Literacy and Journalism Professor of the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod, and has a Master's Degree in English.

Second of Two Parts

“Turn away

If you could get me a drink of water ’cause my lips are chapped and faded

Call my aunt Marie,  help her gather all my things

And bury me in all my favorite colors

My sisters and my brothers still, I will not kiss you

‘Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you.”

Cancer, My Chemical Romance

When Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance wrote Cancer as the eight track to The Black Parade album, fans immediately ganged up on the song, trying to decipher its meaning, and metaphors it might contain.  Way headed them all off with an admission that, while the song lyrics might be interpreted as a metaphor, the single is really just a very direct song about cancer.

He had set out to write “the darkest song ever”.

And he believed he succeeded.

The appeal of bands like My Chemical Romance to young people — with its dark poetry and that feeling of falling, falling, falling into a chasm of despair, or of being isolated with your loneliness – is unmistakeable.  Let’s face it.  The band is not the only ones buying all those albums themselves, and there is only so many members of the emo sub-culture for MCR to have that much impact.

But create an impact they did, with MCR becoming massively popular among misunderstood young people trying to make adults listen.

Connor Purcell, musician from Lehigh Valley Pennsylvannia, fife champion at age 17 (see Fifes, drums, and rock n’ roll, pt. 1) is acutely aware of that fact.

That is why he is making his own interpretation of the song.

He is also aware of the risks he was taking when he decided to cover popular numbers for his album, titled Noon to be released 12 noon of 20 January 2021 (or 01-20-21).

“I don’t want to simply cover songs the same exact way that I heard them originally, especially because most of the songs I cover are very popular, well known, beloved numbers that it would be nearly impossible to improve upon in any significant way in their original setting,” he tells DNX Lifestyle.

The challenge also is re-inventing something. 

It’s one thing to start from scratch, it is another to take what is considered a universally loved song beloved song, and convert it into your own.

Selecting, layering, mixing, refining — repeat

Think Sunday Morning by Maroon 5.

Everyone who has not been living under a rock is familiar with the massively popular hit.

Connor takes the song apart – working out first the basic arrangement of the song, then the harmony, then the very technical process of layering, mixing, refining – all very important process of creating the covers.

He combines instruments, both actual and electronic (otherwise known as Musical Instrument Digital Interface).

In fact, a single piece of music, Connor confesses, requires no less than 15-man band.

“I don’t think I can play live,” he laughs as he tells DNX why he cannot perform via live streaming.

Fifteen persons. Think of that as 15 different instruments.

But this time, all 15 are done just by one person.

It is all a matter of picking which sounds to go with which song – and so the MIDI comes in handy.

But therein lies a challenge.  The problem, he admits, is that MIDI instruments sound “robotic”, which gives a rather flat, emotionless product, and anybody with an expert ear in music can immediately spot the difference.

So thus the need to “humanize” the sound, make it seem natural, not synthetic.  It takes skills.

But Connor has plenty.

Selecting, layering, mixing, refining.

What results is a beautiful instrumental, tune-by-tune rendition of a classic.

His covers have to be heard to be believed.

PALINDROMIC LAUNCH

The artist is planning to launch his album, palindromically titled Noon on 20 January 21 (or, as pointed out earlier, 1-20-21). The date is a palindrome, the 12-track album title is a palindrome, and the intertwined N and O’s in the album cover look like two 2’s that have fallen on their sides.

Why 22 (also a palindrome)? 

“The number pops up in my life – it’s my date of birth (22 September), my father was born on the 22nd too,” he shares.

The tracks – and all these are played, arranged, and mixed by the artist himself – are:

Morning Sunlight by Ballyhoo!; Sex and Candy by Marcy Playground; 5446 That’s My Number / Ball and Chain by Sublime; Cancer by My Chemical Romance; Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones;

The Way by Fastball, Sunday Morning by Maroon 5, Long Shot by the Steep Canyon Rangers, Wrong Way by Sublime, Ma Poubelle by Sum 41 / Sally’s Song / Mama by Sum 41/My Chemical Romance, A Little Piece Of Heaven by Avenged Sevenfold, and Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! by ABBA. 

Each song having a cultural impact, or a least a cult following (like Ballyhoo!). But Connor is unperturbed.

He is making each song his own, through what he calls a “labor-intensive and time-consuming process”.

“I’m heavily influenced by jazz, big band, punk, ska, reggae, rock, folk, bluegrass, and many other genres, and my inspirations come from everywhere,” he shares, adding, “[that is why] one of my main goals when arranging most pieces is to modify the genre to make it my own.”

And with Noon, Connor might have done exactly that.

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