The book for August's edition of the Bushwick Book Club was A Game of Thrones, the first book in a series recently made crazily popular by HBO's TV adaptation -- everyone and their mother seems to be reading it now (even my mother). It's addictive; I read the first four books in quick succession and had to go back and re-skim the first one to write my song.
I tackled the assignment by making a list of all the things that, if I were listening to a song about A Game of Thrones, I would expect to be included. I've written other songs this way, by making a list (my Ode to Greenpoint, for one). It's a good trick for an assignment song, or any song where you know exactly what it's supposed to be about. The list for this song is below (if you haven't read the book, it'll give you a pretty good idea what it's like).
I wrote the song on the ukulele, but it's long and a little samey and was sounding boring to me, even when I tried alternating strumming and finger picking. So I started messing around on the piano. I haven't made a habit of playing the piano in public since recitals in the second grade, back when I took lessons; I wasn't a prodigy then, but I was okay. Nowadays, playing piano in front of an audience makes me feel the way I imagine most people feel about being onstage at all: not in control of the outcome, under pressure, on the spot, liable to choke or freeze. But I've made a couple of exceptions for the Bushwick Book Club. (Because if you can't push your comfort zone at Goodbye Blue Monday, where can you? This is a venue with a deliberate goal of encouraging the rough drafts that may transform into brilliant projects.)
Unexpectedly, I ended up actually writing out an arrangement in something close to actual notation, something else I haven't done in a long time. I didn't have staff paper, so I had to make some up.
Come the night of the show, the performance was effortful and didn't go exactly as planned, but was not totally embarrassing either. The live recording from the show was too rough to share, so I recorded it again at home to include in the bandcamp album from the evening (especially recommended: Casey Holford's "Five Plus One"). There's another song I wrote on there too, "Hard to be a Woman" (YouTube video here).
List for A Game of Thrones Song:
The king in the north
Take the black
Milk of the poppy
Dark wings dark words
Blue eyes black hands
Wall made of ice
Fear cuts deeper than knives
Mad king Aerys
Mad king Aerys