New Song: Who Can Fool Me

Who is the greater fool, the fool or the fool who follows?

I’ve been working on a new song called “Who Can Fool Me?” It’s a defiant and bitter song, a reaction to the constant lies and manipulation coming from the media and the forces of power in our society, and how everyone seems to go along with it rather than maintaining the sovereignty of one’s own mind and judgment. Or something like that. I came up with the basic idea for the song a few years back, and refined it this fall.

The arrangement and feel of the song is tense end edgy, and takes a cue from old-time cartoon jazz, but sort of warped and twisted and blended with modern electronica. Structurally, it’s basically a C minor blues, played in a stride style, but in 7/4 time. The basic blues chords are embellished with upward chromatic harmonic movement.

The recording came together pretty quickly. It looks I’ll be done with it in less than two months, which is much better than the 3 or 4 months some of my other songs took. Admittedly those were longer songs and this one is only three minutes but still, I may be getting better at this! At this point I’m pretty much done except for two things. One is editing and mixing the vocals; I have an effects treatment in mind.

The other a synthesizer solo. I have a virtual orchestra consisting of a synth mellotron, a synth string section, and two real saxophones – a tenor and a soprano. The lead synth, combines with the 2 saxes is designed to evoke the classic horn section of a trumpet, clarinet and tenor sax, as used by for example Raymond Scott. So I want the synth to sound something like a cross between a gutbucket trumpet played with a plunger mute and wah-wah guitar on overdrive.

This gave me occasion to plug in my venerable Yamaha VL-70 wind synthesizer. It is a very cool piece of technology that produces sounds thru physical modeling. The sounds are responsive to multiple realtime continuous controls, and the unit is designed to work with a wind controller such as Yamaha’s WX-11. The combo of the WX-11 and VL-70 is very playable, and feels alot like playing a real saxophone. It’s been years since I’ve played this thing, I spent most of my last session simply getting used to the instrument, and paging thru the presets (256 of them) to see what I liked. I found several patches that fall either into the “brass” or “guitar” category, but no suitable morph of the two.

I finally settled on a muted jazz trumpet patch just to lay down a rough take to have something to listen back to on the train. Amazingly, that patch sounds almost too real. I just ran the audio out of the VL straight into protools, but next time I think I’ll capture the MIDI instead and pass it back out to render the audio like an overdub. This will enable me to do multiple passes with two different patches. Over time I’ve found it’s usually quicker to get a particular sound by blending two patches than by going nuts twiddling the knobs and programming your custom sounds. (Believe me I’m not lazy, I’ve spent plenty of time twiddling knobs!) And although the solo is fine, the part as a whole is unusable because I was seriously overplaying. I need to be much sparser, take more space and interact more with the other instruments. Usually I don’t worry too much about planning out my solos in advance, as I kind of work it out subconsciously as I’m writing and arranging. But this one needs a bit more work. Still all in all it was a successful experiment, and I feel set up to nail it the next session.

Who Can Fool Me?
John Szinger, 2004 – 2008

You can’t fool me
This time won’t be same
I see you play your game
I’ve heard it all before
This time I’m keeping score and
You can give me the runaround but

You can’t fool me
You’re pretty good at lying
I’ll give you points for trying
This time my mind’s made up
It’s rain in a paper cup and
You can try to steal my sound but

You can’t fool me
Although you make rules
But still I know what’s true
Yeah I’ve been there and back
This time I’m keeping track
You can try to lead me on but

You can’t fool me
Although you’re so much stronger
You’ve been around much longer
You want to push me ’round
I’m gonna stand my ground and
You can try to knock me down but

You can’t fool me
And now you’re playing cupid
You know I’m not that stupid
Yeah I can see right thru
I know what I have to do and
You can try to make me dance but

You can’t fool me
I don’t buy your fantasy
Leave me alone already
You fooled me once before
I’m hungry for some more and
I might even take that chance but

You can’t fool me
No, you can’t fool me
Only I can fool myself
Said I can fool myself
You can’t fool and honest man and
You can’t fool me

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