Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by owl »

Cybronica wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:13 pm
Pigfarmer Jr wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 7:35 pm
.

Grumpy Mike -….
Challengewise: You said, "The transition back to C involves Adim -> D7 -> C. Which is downward. I hope you didn’t mean to specify something else that isn’t a technical definition of modulation!" Congratz. Your transition is downward. I just quoted the definition from the music dictionary but I'm gonna do it again. "1.The process of changing from one key to another." or "2. In electronic music, the term is applied to a change of frequency, amplitude, or other changes of similar nature possible through electronics." And you used a key change in your song so I'm inclined to think you knew a key change was a likely goal of the challenge. However, you establish the key of C and then go up to Gm in both chords and melody. That's an upward modulation in my book.
I wrote out a whole response to this, but my phone are it instead of posting, so here we try again:

This comment is why I said earlier that the “downward” specification of the challenge is a do nothing modifier. C to Gm is up? On what basis? G is either a fifth above or a fourth below C, so going for the closer destination, you’d be going down. Also, going from a major key to a minor key would be agreed upon by many as having a ‘downward’ emotional trajectory. That aside, when looked at from a music theory standpoint the idea that one would modulate ‘up’ or ‘down’ is ridiculous because keys (unlike individual notes) have an absolute value in relationship to each other. Would going from C to Bb be considered a downward modulation? Ah, but what if the modulation went C C7 F F7 Bb? Same start and destination keys, but it would certainly feel like an upward direction. Keys are a circle, not a line as a piano might imply.

The only way I could take seriously a comment on the fulfillment of the challenge is if you said, “well, it changes keys, and it made me feel down,” because that’s all you can say about this challenge: it is 100% subjective, but pretends to be quantifiable. At least with subjective challenges (like, bridge your first two songs together) you know the judging is going to be subjective and you can plan for it. When a challenge is presented as objective (like, rondel), you know that there is a quantifiable list of qualities to include (like, number of stanzas, lines, repetitions, and the structure of a rhyme scheme).
I totally agree with the ambiguity in the challenge… it might be logical if you’re going C-Bb that the shortest path between those keys is down, but which way do you read C-G, up or down? I tried to make sure the “downward” in mine was fulfilled as “downward” by making sure the lead vocal went down in pitch between the sections but what if I’d gone for an octave higher, same notes, same instrumentation?

Anyway, thanks for the reviews, everyone who’s posted them! I really appreciate the effort.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by seemanski »

God damn, looks like I ballsed up the challenge ... again!

In my defence what I did was google modulation and found

(Music, other) music the transition from one key to another

Downward means go down (obviously). So I tried to add elements that go from one key down to the other and didn't think anything else of it.

I seem to always get my interpretations of the challenges wrong and I will probably continue to do so. I'm always going to write the music I want despite the challenges anyway.

Thanks for all the reviews, it is greatly appreciated.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by JonPorobil »

Cybronica wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:40 pm
My theory nerd brain really wants to explore this more instead of sleeping, but unlike my self righteous rant above, I’m going to stick this behind a spoiler bar so that judges have to actively choose to be influenced by my thoughts :twisted:
Spoiler
Show
I had been talking with some Nur Einers last week about the challenge and how it could be fulfilled, and what came back over and over again was the difference between tonicization and modulation. Tonicization is when you’re in key A, start playing some of the chords of key B, but quickly return to key A and your ear feels like it never really left key A, was just zooming with key B. Modulation, on the other hand, makes the ear think it has travelled far and now resides in the new key. It hangs around longer, sometimes permanently. If asked to sing Do, you would sing the Do of key B. To get back to key A, you would need to travel again. IMO, what is being described in the above would be a tonicization, not a modulation.
My scores are already turned in and my reviews published, so there's no chance of this explanation influencing my judging. I'll say that I mostly agree with you here, Cybronica. If you want to get a little more in-depth on the theory discussion, I recommend the Youtuber 12Tone and their video essay analyzing Iron Maiden's "The Trooper." The relevant section runs from about 0:25 to about 1:40 - covering the concept of "Melodic reduction." In the case of See-Man-Ski's song, the "lick' I spoke of would be a "motif" in the vocabulary of 12Tone's video, with each instance of the lick standing a single note (in my review of See-Man-Ski's song I said they stand in for chords; I don't think whether the melodic reduction reduces these motifs to chords or single notes has any impact on my judgment). In "The Trooper," we see that same motif played first starting from the root of E, then down a step to D, then down another step to C. I think it's fair to say that each of these steps down, while you could argue they're technically "mini-modulations," they don't represent a change in the key of the song, which is to say they don't force the listener to re-evaluate the tonal center.

That said, none of the judges ever articulated that our working definition of "modulation" involved key changes or moving the tonal center of the song. Nor did we make explicit the baseline expectation, which Pigfarmer explained above me - basically, "We often hear lifts or other key changes with an upward direction in pop music, but seldom key changes down, so what would that look like?" So as a judge, I've tried to be mindful of the fact that competitors can work in good faith with a different understanding of the challenge from the expectations I brought into it. For instance, in Ever Kenieval's song, they clearly had a different take on "downward modulation," and they obviously went far out of their way to realize this vision. I had to give them credit for that even though it didn't really line up with my unspoken expectations. See-Man-Ski, on the other hand... Well, like I said, I can't justify completely disqualifying the song (noting that Nur Ein doesn't have an official "disqualify" mechanism other than ranking the song at the bottom of the list - this is an extreme measure I've done only once as a judge, and would have done to only one other song I can think of, had I been a judge at the time). However, despite meeting adefinition of the challenge, I don't think See-Man-Ski's implementation felt creative - in other words, it didn't sound like it took his song in a direction that it wouldn't have gone anyway. I acknowledge that maybe the challenge inspired him to use a genre where this kind of motif-as-melody thing was common so that he could do this and make it sound seamless, so of course in that situation it would sound totally natural. But I think other competitors used the challenge to do otherwise unintuitive and creative things with their songs.

For the record, my favorite integration/implementation of the challenge this week was in Mandibles' shadow entry. Brown Word also used it well. Everyone else met the challenge to one degree or another, but I do look favorably upon songs in which the challenge feels integral, like it's important to the structure, or to the emotional core, or if in some ineffable way the song wouldn't have existed without the challenge.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by JonPorobil »

seemanski wrote:
Wed Jun 23, 2021 6:48 am
In my defence what I did was google modulation and found

(Music, other) music the transition from one key to another

Downward means go down (obviously). So I tried to add elements that go from one key down to the other and didn't think anything else of it.
I'm reminded of when the challenge was "Must include a repeating section which shifts from major to minor," and Caravan Ray had some trouble figuring out the difference between using a minor chord as a part of a progression, as opposed to changing the major/minor tonality of a passage. (No shade to John - he honestly asked for help understanding the concept!)

Sorry this got you whammied. That's one of those things that happens sometimes in Nur Ein, and its impact increases in the later rounds, where small gripes can end up being the difference between a high-ranking entry and a low-ranking entry, given that all the songs by this point are usually really good. And yours was no exception!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by seemanski »

I'm going to give the challenge an upward modulation with my middle finger :P

Jokes aside, I appreciate your comments and you have to weigh it up with something and that seems fair. I will be proud to go out on this song compared with my crappy song I went out on last year.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by seemanski »

To be honest it will be a bit of a relief to go. Going from spintunes to this has been fun but exhausting.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Evermind »

I think I've figured out what is so frustrating to me about challenges that are intentionally never explained. This is the same problem with the question "is a hot dog a sandwich?". There is no such thing as public, universal meaning for words and other symbols. Even where a shared language exists (like the one you're reading this in) we can disagree on (or even misunderstand) what a particular word means or embodies, which inevitably leads to people arguing about what a sandwich is or isn't. In this particular case, the judges seem to be using a different dictionary to get their definition of modulate, mine comes from Merriam-Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/modulate
to pass gradually from one state to another
Sadly, it sounds like this week we've made a "hot dog" of a song in the eyes of the judges and luck was not with us.
JonPorobil wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:00 pm
What's the point of the modulation in this song? Does the gradual downward filter symbolize some aspect of the relationship between your song's narrator and his roommate/partner? You could argue that the relationship is getting darker and darker as it goes (and, jeeze, I've lived that, and I have the filthy sink photos to prove it!), but I don't think that interpretation stands up to scrutiny, because the narrator is already fed up and wants out by the end of the eighth line.
...
Later on in the song, the lyrics become a banal list of complaints about household tasks, and that was where you lost me. It's not inherently invalid to sing about frustrations with household stuff, and I've been encouraging comeptitors to be specific with their lyrics, but I think at that point to me it just felt like the song was piling on, to the point of meanness, and it stopped working for me altogether at that point.
This was the intent, yes, that the narrator is growing more tired and frustrated as the relationship goes on. The narrator is not supposed to be a likeable person, and the big clue as to why is the second half of the bridge: "But I'm afraid to criticize / Our situation might decline". The complaints made in the bridge are petty on purpose, because these are all stupid things that could have been addressed if the narrator had just spoken up about it, but by this point it's already too late, the resentment has grown and things are irreparable.

I kind of wish that the bridge had ended not with another line about how much the narrator resents their roommate but with something like "You have no chance to address my complaints/When I've never told them to your face". It would have better gotten the point across that the narrator has fault in the situation and could resolve it if not for their cowardice.

Thanks for the review, and if I don't see you next round (you sure make it sound that way) I'll see you next Nur.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by JonPorobil »

Evermind wrote:
Wed Jun 23, 2021 7:47 am
Thanks for the review, and if I don't see you next round (you sure make it sound that way) I'll see you next Nur.
Aw crap. I wrote this with some assumptions in mind based on the scores I'd already seen. I had intended to not publish until after the results were public, but when I clicked "Send" out of habit, I just said "screw it" and left it there. I forgot about the (possible) spoilers.

HOWEVER, at the time I wrote that, only three score sheets had been turned in, and as of this moment it's still not certain that you're getting cut. Stay tuned!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by grumpymike »

Pigfarmer Jr wrote:
Wed Jun 23, 2021 5:29 am
C4D929B2-364C-436A-BAB7-4E406F948367.gif
C4D929B2-364C-436A-BAB7-4E406F948367.gif (4.88 MiB) Viewed 489 times
Yawn. If I’d known you didn’t know what you wanted I might have had time to make a better song. Instead, I bugged the heck out of Cybronica for her educated opinion on music theory.

I knew I would get panned for only having 2 hours to record. I considered not even bothering because I knew I’d get chewed out.

Instead, this is the week where you have to guess the random number that the judges were thinking. That’s fine, but I don’t need a smug lecture on it. We aren’t dating, so there’s no reason to call me out for not buying the right kind of candy on your birthday.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

grumpymike wrote:
Wed Jun 23, 2021 8:20 am
We aren’t dating, so there’s no reason to call me out for not buying the right kind of candy on your birthday.
Fair enough.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by thelowestbitter »

Wow, thanks judges! Weird how things turn out, I was feeling pretty down about this song by the time I submitted it because it didn't really end up exactly how I wanted it, and I wasn't happy with my vocals. I'd resigned myself to being a goner this round especially after last week when a song that I ended up really liking only just scraped through. Now I guess I have to try get my head around this video challenge
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by heid »

thelowestbitter wrote:
Wed Jun 23, 2021 10:13 am
Wow, thanks judges! Weird how things turn out, I was feeling pretty down about this song by the time I submitted it because it didn't really end up exactly how I wanted it, and I wasn't happy with my vocals. I'd resigned myself to being a goner this round especially after last week when a song that I ended up really liking only just scraped through. Now I guess I have to try get my head around this video challenge
I've been meaning to reply to your reviews but I'm just gonna say it now. Yours was my favorite as soon as I heard it. I listened to the LP this week with a non-songwriter friend of mine and both of us flipped out when yours started. She proclaimed, "I would listen to this in my car" and I found the download link as quickly as possible. There's something about your crisp mixing and the juxtaposition of fear and vulnerability with loud, joyful queerness that reaches me on many levels. Excellent work.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by crumpart »

thelowestbitter wrote:
Wed Jun 23, 2021 10:13 am
Wow, thanks judges! Weird how things turn out, I was feeling pretty down about this song by the time I submitted it because it didn't really end up exactly how I wanted it, and I wasn't happy with my vocals. I'd resigned myself to being a goner this round especially after last week when a song that I ended up really liking only just scraped through. Now I guess I have to try get my head around this video challenge
Quick note: I thought your vocals sounded great in this song; I actually enjoyed them more than I have in any of your other songs so far.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by vowlvom »

The Lowest Bitter - that bassline is ridiculously catchy. Perhaps... too catchy? No, that isn't a thing. This is a song I liked on first listen and enjoy more each time I hear it, so pleased to see it win the round! Great lyrics and I love the effect when the synthy chorus drops back out to the bassline, which I think is the result of the song returning to the original key after the chorus modulation? Who knows!

Max Bombast - I thought your song last week was one of your worst, although clearly the judges disagreed. I like this one a lot more, the shuffly drums are appealing and the riff is cool (although one of the other reviews suggested it would be more interesting if the vocal over the intro / bridge was doing something other than just doubling it and now I can't un-hear that). Fun lyrics, I really like that the chorus starts on the very un-choruslike line about geometric growth and makes it work. I'm not so keen on the "down down down down down" bits, I think that'd be cool with some modulated delay rather than just repeats.

Crown Shy - there's a very warm quality to the music here, it has a lo-fi quality that I find very appealing - very tape-y. I don't find all of the lyrics to flow quite as well as your songs usually do, the words crammed into the last line of each verse slightly jar on me each time - but that's stretching for a critique, the lyrics otherwise are beautiful. Cuts off too abruptly at the end, let it ring!

Heid - lovely melody, the singalong chorus is super-catchy. I find myself wishing that the oohs after the chorus / leading into the spoken word had a harmony. The spoken word is admirably full of righteous fury and yet on repeat listens I found myself wishing there was more of the song part before it took over. But it's a bold choice and I'm pleased that you're taking risks (and seeing them pay off!)

Brown Word and the Big Whine - the main guitar is a big cloud of fuzz that I find a bit ear-fatiguing, I wish there was a little more definition to it and that it left more room for the vocal. Chorus is excellently anthemic - it'd be cool if when it repeats it had some extra vocal layers, maybe some shouts or counterpoint stuff? The guitar solo absolutely rules, although again the rhythm guitar is taking up so much space in the mix, it'd be nice to hear the lead really cut through.

see-man-ski - UH! I really like the way this switches out of the rock 'n' roll riff into the darker, fuzzier chorus / bridge sections and back again. It's in more of a classic-rock register than I tend to personally enjoy but it sounds great and the performances are really good, I think it's one of your best this Nur Ein. UH!

Ever Kenievel - this is really solid but for some reason never connected with me as much as most of your other songs this Nur Ein. Trying to put my finger on it, I feel like the chorus could use more of an anthemic lift - the melody is good but dynamically it doesn't really seem to kick in at that point as much as I'd like. I think it might actually be interesting if some of the instrumentation cut out at the start of the chorus and then crashed back in.

Grumpy Mike - shame you had so little time to work on a song this week. It really shows, but I'm sure you know that, so I won't kick you while you're down.

Balance Lost - I can't help hearing the first line as "gonna stick it to my balls". If you're not going to post your lyrics then I will stick to this interpretation forever. Lovely chorus on this one, it's a sweet resolution after the tension of the verses and the synths and jangling guitar (and shift to falsetto) really work well, as does that descending post-chorus riff. Critiques: I think the bass is a bit loud. And you shouldn't stick things to your balls.

Hot Pink Halo - this drifts by pleasantly, it doesn't really have a hook that sticks with me but there are a lot of little things in the arrangement that I like. Particularly the chorused flute, on closer inspection!

Mandibles - this is great fun, my favourite Mandibles song in quite a while. The bubbling synth arpeggio is lovely and the layered "no no no!" backing vox are superb and catchy. Lots of really unusual choices in here and they all work well for me. The switch-up for the ending is wild!

Nick Soma - arrangement is fun, I like the guitar part as it shifts through the modulated keys. Feels like the vocal melody struggles a bit as a result of all the changes though, a little meandering and uncertain in places. Still, a fun song and take on the challenge.

The Serviettes - love the glitchy electronics in this track and the way the clanging guitar comes in to lift the chorus and then returns to add to the ordered chaos in the second verse. The "build an empire" line feels slightly awkward to me, like you haven't quite nailed the rhythm of it - otherwise, top stuff. But another one that cuts off too quickly at the end!

Virgo Power - agreed with the other comments that this feels like a fuller and more complete mix, your voice sounds really strong here and the drums are nice and punchy. The omnichord fills the space well and I really like the extra vocal layer on the chorus.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Lucky Spoon »

Pigfarmer Jr wrote:
Wed Jun 23, 2021 5:17 am


You can say it's ridiculous but I hear the standard "modulate up" trick in pop and country music on a regular basis. I interpreted this challenge as the opposite of that.
I think this would have been a great challenge. This was my take on it when I read it; it would have been interesting to see what people came up with.

The double edged sword of leaving challenges more open vs getting what you'd hoped out of them.
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