I have always written music in small chunks that I often then struggle to turn into full songs or tunes. “Not To Scale” is an attempt to blend many of the bits and pieces I have had floating around for years with some new tunes and a few traditional tunes I enjoy playing. Although it is nominally a collection of 8 tracks, it’s meant to be listening to together – some of the tracks are fairly inconsequential on their own, but hopefully make a bit more sense as part of a longer piece.
It was recorded entirely in Garageband on my iPad, although “fixed and mixed” in Logic Pro. More details on how all the instruments were recorded in a separate post later.
a wedding in fort william is a combination of the Scottish traditional tune “Mairi’s Wedding” and my own tune “Fort William”. Before my children we born, Anne and I used to spend the summers touring the Scottish highlands & islands. In 2004, I tried to record a soundtrack for the video we shot during one of these trips. I underestimated just how difficult that was to do well, and was never very happy with the result. But I did like one or two of the tunes in it, and “Fort William” got its name because that was the music playing over the video recorded in Fort William. You can see the (rather silly) stop motion video for this track here.
melody for an unwritten pop song is a new tune written very quickly as light relief from trying to get the arrangements for some of the other tracks right. It felt like it could be made into quite a catchy pop song, but I don’t suppose it ever will.
stuck in a cave … and never get out are really two versions of the same tune with different time signatures that gradually grew further apart. stuck in a cave came first, as an attempt at writing a proper folk tune. The name was my daughter’s suggestion – “you’ll be stuck in a cave and never get out” is (for reasons I have never understood) her standard phrase used when adopting a Scottish accent.
music for a found hammond is, of course, a reference to the classic Penguin Cafe Orchestra tune (more on that later). When my mum died in 2012, I decided to spend some of the money I inherited on a new instrument that I would play regularly. I actually ended up with a very old instrument… a Hammond M3 organ, built in 1960. This tune came out of my attempted to learn how to do all those sliding-up-the-keyboard whooshing noises.
robot is a much older tune which I used to play on the piano, and have moved it between all sorts of different keyboard instruments. It ended up on the accordion.
isle of rhum was another from the 2004 soundtrack project. The traditional “Wild Mountain Thyme” (actually, I am not so sure any more that it is a traditional tune, read the Wikipedia page for details) always felt like an obvious segue for it, although it was only in the final recording session for “Not To Scale” that I worked out how to do it properly when I realised that Wild Mountain Thyme can be played in both 4/4 and 3/4.
rope for a found harmonium is a combination of “Rope” (a very old tune of mine – there’s a longer recording of it here), and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s “Music For A Found Harmonium”, written by the late, great Simon Jeffes. When I bought the Hammond organ, I had also been thinking about buying a harmonium, and ended up buying both. It is quite depressing just how cheaply you can buy a fully working old harmonium or reed organ for on eBay. It cost me just £20 – about half the cost of the petrol to go and collect it from Bournemouth. It’s a beautiful instrument, and there really was only one candidate for “first tune to learn how to play”.
rolling II is part of a longer tune called (unsurprisingly) “Rolling”, moved into a different key. “Rolling” was going to be part of this collection of tunes, but didn’t quite fit. I will go back and do it properly one day.
autumn head is another very old tune, from the same era as “Rope”. Like “Rope” it used to have words to it as well, but they haven’t be used for a long time. It just felt like the right sort of ending to the collection.
- Acoustic bouzouki: all tracks
- Acoustic bass guitar: all tracks
- Electric bouzouki: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
- Hammond organ M3: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
- Piano: 1, 6
- Accordion: 4
- Harmonium: 7