March 30, 2018

Minor Secrets of "King Dork Approximately" Revealed!!

Time for another "minor secrets" post, for Odin, for Darkness, for Humanity.

As I've noted before in various spots, this tune, conceived as a "theme song" for my third novel King Dork Approximately, more or less accidentally sparked the launch of the latest voyage of the MTX Starship. The song was written concurrently with the novel, which isn't too common. Novels and songs are different sorts of writing and that trope about wearing different hats doesn't quite cover it; it's more like you have a couple of replaceable heads, or almost different selves. (Not saying there aren't things in common between the two heads, just that it's difficult to operate them simultaneously.)

Years of hard and bitter struggle against the indifference of the world and the limits of my own abilities had trained me to have modest expectations. You can only do the best you can with what you've got: you can't actually make anyone care about it. I'd hoped for little more than doing justice to one of my better songs, upping the "novel theme song" ante for its own sake, ticking off a promotional box, and drawing attention to the new book. But when we did finally manage to meet up in the studio, something clicked. The song came out great, but more importantly, we knew we were going to have to do more. It took a bit of organizing and agitating but the King Dork Approximately "balbum", a whole bunch of shows, and further schemes of breathtaking grandiosity ensued.

As for the song, I think it's one of my best, as a stand-alone composition, as a sequel to the song "King Dork", and as an integrated plot and characterization feature of the novel. The Dylan reference is almost a throwaway gag in the first two categories, but it's a major part of the novel. The song depicts the ambivalence, uncertainty, and ingenuous hope that follows fulfillment of the "please say yes" love song (before we stampede toward the inevitable break-up song, as I usually do.)

Apart from that, it's got a pretty interesting structure that shouldn't work but somehow does. When I first started playing around with it I was thinking about Tom Jobim's "One Note Samba" and thought I'd see if I could manage that feat (a single note cadence that feels like a melody because of the chords underneath it.) In the end I gave up, but wound up with the two-note melody on the a, b, and d verse lines (with the c line being kind of like a verse "bridge." There's only one chorus, all the way at the end, and it's kind of a coda or adjunct to the song, not strictly necessary even. But the various uses of the word "approximately" during the verses and bridge function as a kind of anchor for the song and make this ending chorus more of a punchline, or at least, a summation. Pretty neat. (Also, I'm quite pleased with that bridge.)

So there you have it. I hope those "secrets" were minor enough for you. Hang in there and see you next time. (More official and semi-official music videos here.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at March 30, 2018 01:12 PM