When the Curtains of Night

June 28, 2017 1:41 AM

I'm happy to present my collaboration with not_on_display: this is our version of a neat little tune that was included in The American Songbag (a 1927 folk song collection by Carl Sandburg); the song there was itself derived from a late 19th-century song by William S. Hays.

Recorded from February - June 2017 (we started mulling over ideas in January)

Arr. by not_on_display and rangefinder 1.4

not_on_display (with notes from n_o_d):
* harmonica in G pitch-shifted down two semitones (and so I could only hear what I was playing thru the headphones or I would get disoriented. I don't have an F harmonica)
* Garageband glockenspiel, vibraphone, drums, cymbals
* crickets and field noises as pillaged from some trove of sound effects someone posted to usenet

rangefinder 1.4:
* acoustic (classical) guitar
* electric guitar (doubled up and panned for stereo)
* vocals
* final mix

Neither of us were familiar with the song until recently, when it came up while searching for something we could cover (at least I think that's true for not_on_display, too). I first heard a version of this song by Dan Zanes (called "When the Curtains of Night Are Pinned Back"), from his album Parades and Panoramas: 25 Songs Collected by Carl Sandburg for The American Songbag, which is also how I found out about the book; we used his version as a springboard.

When learning the song for this project, though, I kept feeling like the verse was too short and felt somewhat unresolved -- which is a perfectly fine effect, but I wanted a bit more of a resolution musically for this arrangement. So I added a repeat of the melody/chords for "I'll remember you, love, in my prayers."

I'm starting to get addicted to music collaborations -- they've been a joy to work on, and this project was no exception. One of the best things about collabs is literally hearing the ideas while building up a song, and it was always exciting to hear the nifty instrumentation and solos from not_on_display -- things that added more depth to the song; things I wouldn't have thought of myself. It's very cool to be able to discuss, try out, and witness ideas taking shape. Thanks, not_on_display!

posted by rangefinder 1.4 (8 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Lyrics:

When the
curtains of night
are pinned back by the stars
and the beautiful moon sweeps the sky
I'll remember you, love,
in my prayers

When the
curtains of night
are pinned back by the stars
and the dew drops of heaven kiss the rose
I'll remember you, love,
in my prayers

More song nerdery:

Archive.org has The American Songbag by Carl Sandburg. It's pretty interesting and if you're interested in folk songs or old songs, definitely check it out (be aware of problematic (e.g. racist) content of the era, though). The entry for "When The Curtains of Night Are Pinned Back" is on page 286 of the digitized book (page 259 in the original print book).

From the same page: "The cowboys of Colorado took a garrulous popular song of the 1870s, and kept a fragment, the heart's essence of it." Although the book credited one Jane Ogle of Rock Island, Illinois, for sharing the song, and Thorvald Otterström for the arrangement, it didn't identify the original popular song or its writer, so I looked around for that info.

It seems that the original popular song was titled "I'll Remember You, Love, In My Prayers" by William Shakespeare Hays in 1869. The University of Maine has downloadable sheet music (from 1877) of Hays' song.

There's yet another version of the song that got recorded in the 20th century -- confusingly also titled "When the Curtains of Night Are Pinned Back" but again, pretty different from the one in the Sandburg book. Archive.org has a couple online, such as this record by Zora and the Hometowners (i.e. Zora Layman; btw the page has a photo of a different record that made me do a double take, and not in a good way...). Or this 78 by the Cass County Boys -- the record attributes the song to Frank Luther (who was married to Zora Layman).
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:12 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]


How lovely!
posted by greenish at 4:24 AM on June 28 [2 favorites]


Nice! I've worked with n_o_d with the musics before and I am always in awe of his knowledge and talent. He's good people.

Your voice reminds me of someone but I can't for the life of me think of who it is right now. Stay tuned for a comment from me at 4:00 AM where I shout her name in all caps.
posted by bondcliff at 9:56 AM on June 28 [3 favorites]


This is excellent! The two of you both did some fine work in this.
posted by CancerMan at 12:48 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


Really gorgeous, guys.
posted by cortex at 1:58 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


Thank YOU, rangefinder! I totally agree with the fun of collaborating and that aspect of the unknown – what the other collaborator will bring to the table in sounds or arrangement or whatnot. This was very fun to pass back and forth and watch it grow.
posted by not_on_display at 3:08 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


I like how this feels like a swelling-rolling-crashing cycle going throughout! Kinda like some barrel tumbling steadily, but over uneven territory.
posted by ignignokt at 6:43 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the comments! I'm so glad you all enjoyed it.

bondcliff, if you ever think of the person/voice, I'm interested in finding out.

ignignokt, that's a great image -- I'll credit n_o_d for really bringing that to life with his contributions, particularly the percussion in the second half.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:24 AM on July 14


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