Hourglass [CC8]

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In record-quick time, I present the next edition of Chiptune Chaos.

This piece is called ‘Hourglass’, and it’s another one that’s really much more like a ‘song’ than a ‘track’ or a ‘piece’. I would say that most of the tracks I’ve written for CC so far have been instrumental, unlike a song with a lead vocal line or a verse or chorus. ‘A Patchwork Guy’ is the exception, because that actually is based on a song.

In ‘Hourglass’, I think there are identifiable verses and choruses – which repeat, unlike several of my tracks which never return to a theme at all – and the piccolo plays the melody in a way that I can definitely imagine being sung with lyrics.  (Yeah, it’s a piccolo. I’m using free composition software, don’t expect the audio quality to be fantastic.) It’s a pretty simple tune; the piano spends most of its time playing three notes – B, C sharp and E – with the bass moving between C sharp, A and F sharp. As another consequence of the free software thing, the piano part doesn’t sound quite as nice as I think it could. I went and played it on an actual piano that has a sustain pedal, and it’s got a much nicer quality. Sadly, sustain isn’t a thing in my composition software.

There are a couple of different synthesised instruments that crop up later, though they sort of wash in and out as they please and don’t really do much beyond adding a little layer of atmosphere in the background.

‘Hourglass’ might be my simplest and least musically odd piece in the Chiptune Chaos series so far. It stays in one time signature (12/8) and one key (C sharp minor, though the relative major of E can be heard in the chorus too), with only one chord that doesn’t strictly belong there. The F sharp major chord is the one element that contains any sort of accidentals, with A sharp being the single note not in the tonic scale that appears in the song. Even with that chord making fairly regular appearances, I don’t think it unsettles the piece at all, so it keeps moving along undisturbed. To me, it sounds like the sea at night underneath a lighthouse, with the occasional sweeping wave. There’s a little movement in there, but nothing that seems contrary to the image.

As far as what role ‘Hourglass’ would play in my imaginary game, I think it would appear either as a background track during a very reflective moment or as a motif for a character who’s got some tragedy in their past. Perhaps both: the theme would first show up when a certain character is introduced, signalling that they’ve experienced despair at some time in their life (but, as the F sharp major chord suggests, they’re moving on), then it would recur later on when the party has shared or relived a tragic event together. Maybe they lose somebody in the group, or fail at part of their quest, then spend a while deep in thought under the moonlight. As the song moves on – though it stays much the same throughout, the melody of the ‘chorus’ is slightly embellished on the second run through, and a brief section breaks into a waltz rhythm rather than the steady trickle of notes – things seem to move in a lighter way and become… better. The party, ultimately, have to move on. They’ve got a mission to complete. (What is that mission? Not a clue.)

Next time: I go back to super-weird musicality with a minimalist piece I’m working on. I think that’ll also be a good time to take a look back at Chiptune Chaos so far; maybe put all the pieces I’ve done up to now together and work out where this story is going and what I still need to fill in.

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