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Sunday, March 28, 2010

10. "Nelly Bly" by Genevieve Schorr & Rex Broome

Like probably all active musicians, and most likely a fair share of formerly active ones, I have a lot of my own stuff in my music library. Not out of vanity so much as, well, where else are you going to put it? And I save just about everything, so there are a lot of incomplete demos and unfinished mixes and so forth, and I had no doubt I'd end up covering myself on 39-40. The one The Machine selected for me today is nonetheless a bit of an anomaly.

A few years ago my wife and I were casually commissioned to write a play for kids with original music (something she'd done before). The subject was Nellie Bly, the pioneering female journalist, who is actually an interesting and sort of stranger-than-you'd-think figure. So we wrote the script and a clutch of original songs for the characters to sing. We also included the historical song "Nelly Bly" by Stephen Foster, written in 1850. Weird thing is, the Foster song "Nelly Bly" isn't about Nellie Bly; in fact, Bly was a pen name given to the journalist by an editor for reasons that aren't entirely clear even now (to say nothing of the spelling discrepancy). The Foster song was actually about a young slave girl (and originally featured some period dialect you just couldn't perform today). Weirder still was the fact that we couldn't find a full recording of the song; what we did find was an instrumental version on an mp3 which I believe was originally some kind of MIDI arrangement. We had to record our own vocals on it for demo purposes, and that's what you'll hear if you listen to the "original" track here... the phrasing and melody were basically best guesses.

The play was rejected and the songs have never seen the light of day. Interesting experience, though.

As to what I did with it this time out, well, I must have somehow equated the phrase "Heigh Nelly, Ho Nelly" with "Hey Ho, Let's Go", because I don't know how else I arrived at this arrangement.

Rex Broome ~ everything



When I recorded this fake-band pop-punk blast, I sort of felt like I was finally caving in and doing the most obvious kind of recording I could do given my background and experience. But having just burned the bulk of the project to CDs and spent some tim driving around listening to them in my car, I found that when this came blasting out of my speakers after a series of experiments that were a bit trying both to perform at the time and to listen to now, this one came as a relief and put a big smile on my face. In the final analysis, maybe I should have done more of these, but I think I'm just too restless. I would end up tending not to do anything this straightforward and simple unless there was counterintuitive and convoluted reason for doing so. I'm not necessarily my own worst enemy, but I must surely be in the top five.

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