November Challenge - Tubular Balls / Augmented

November 1, 2012 12:00 PM

November's challenge is to help create a MeFiMusic version of the famous intro section from Mike Oldfield's 1973 classic Tubular Bells, as famously featured in The Exorcist. Thanks (I think) to Major Dundee for the idea. Alternatively, create a piece of music featuring an augmented triad (for example, C-E-G# is C augmented). Tag your submissions "mefimusicchallenge" and "tubular" if you're doing the Tubular Bells challenge, and 'augmented' if you'd rather do the other one. As you might imagine there's a whole hunk of stuff beneath the fold.

Okay. Deep breath.

First of all, we're doing Tubular Bells Part 1. The full version is here. The shorter version used in the Exorcist is here.

Second of all, we're not trying to recreate it but to do something new. So go nuts.

Third of all, the actual recording is full of hideous time signature changes. It starts with a 7/8-9/8 repeating figure, then the bass comes in in 3/4 underneath it, then there's a section ostensibly in 3/4 but with the piano playing in 15/8. And some random bars of 5/4 thrown in. I kid you not. You can take a look at a piano arrangement of the whole thing here if you have the guts.

We're not doing that.

We're going to base it off the iconic riff, which is three bars of 7/8 followed by a bar of 9/8. Fortunately it's very easy to count.

This is meant to be a collaborative process, and how the collaboration will work is as follows:

1. I will supply a backing track of the iconic riff. It's 150 bpm in the key of Am. It's about 4'00 long but that's just in case you feel like doing a 4'00 epic overdub. 10" is just as fine.

2. You will record a new part (or parts! Go nuts!). This could be an overdub or a different version of the riff (which I deliberately made completely metronomic and dull so please improve on it).

2a. If humanly possible, your stem will include you announcing the instrument in a voice full of gravitas. "FIVE STRING BANJO!" "ZITHER!" "CRAPPY ORGAN I FOUND AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD" and so on. Bombast is welcomed.

2b. Your new part can be as long or as short as you like. If it's short, just cut off the rest of the backing track.

3. You will post a mix of your overdub with the pre-existing track but ALSO in the comments post a clean stem of your overdub on its own, so that other people can use it to remix or however they want. Dropbox or Soundcloud are excellent ways of doing this. If you do more than one part, please post a clean stem of each.

4. Feel free rather than using my original starter track to use any of the overdubbed tracks that have been posted. But still remember to post an MP3 of your overdub on its own.

5. We are allowed to fork this project. In fact, I totally encourage it. You're not restricted to using the latest mix.

6. Feel free to use stems that other people have posted in your own mix.

I hope this sounds anarchic. It's certainly meant to be!

I'm sure there are other wrinkles but we can discuss below.
posted by unSane (11 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Okay, the backing track is up. Have at it.
posted by unSane at 12:08 PM on November 1, 2012


Is that the right file now? I have a really dumb idea.
posted by chococat at 7:17 AM on November 2, 2012


Yep, pb replaced it (THANKS!).

You think YOUR ideas are dumb, wait til you hear mine. Dumber the better.
posted by unSane at 8:34 AM on November 2, 2012


holy shit
posted by Corduroy at 9:23 AM on November 2, 2012


where am i?
posted by Corduroy at 9:23 AM on November 2, 2012


It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
posted by unSane at 10:44 AM on November 2, 2012


mmm. pea soup.
posted by ardgedee at 11:19 AM on November 2, 2012


unSane: "It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue."

> PLAY LAMP
posted by not_on_display at 7:41 PM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks to unSane for sorting this - I don't know where you get the energy from mate! I can hardly pick up a guitar these days.

One piece of general advice/idea/thought that everyone can take or leave - don't listen to the original. That's not a typo - don't listen to the original. If you want to come up with something original, the last thing to do is to refresh your memory of it. I was just about to follow one of unS's links above and I thought "Woaaah, no, no, no - don't go there..". I have enough residual memory of this from its ubiquity and when it was aural wallpaper back in the day to have a rough idea of how it goes, but imperfect memory (as well as necessity) can be the mother of invention. If any of you aren't familiar with it - that's terrific and I envy you. Crack on with it and no holds barred.

I've taken this approach with other "covers" and it certainly does lead to something quite different. It's best when you don't know the song at all. Not saying the results are always good mind you, but it's certainly an interesting trip.....
posted by MajorDundee at 2:50 AM on November 4, 2012


Yeah, I kind of agree. I did listen to the original (obviously) in order to work out the riff, but my main thought was 'well, fuck THAT'.

One of the interesting things about the riff is that although it's in (7-7-7-9)/8 you can actually play 4/4 or 6/8 over it perfectly well. So for example it works very well as a background for Carol of the Bells (6/8), with just a slightly unsettling polyrhythmic feel, which is actually great.

I might post a couple of ideas for basslines shortly which people are welcome to chop up or do whatever they want with. I'm also VERY keen to hear some other instruments playing of harmonizing the main riff -- it's tricky to play accurately as it's so fast but that's what audio quantization was invented for.
posted by unSane at 5:35 AM on November 4, 2012


This sounds fun, but won't have time until very end of the month. I can't do "voice full of gravitas", though...
posted by easternblot at 2:38 PM on November 4, 2012


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