Today’s post will be a bit of an acquired taste, as I’m essentially spinning a cheesy inside joke from the Internet into a post for general consumption.
At best, I’m hopeful it will give some insight into the often arbitrary and absurd sources for inspiration. I will note here that the short compositions here do not sound good (except for the second of the Ethiopian Rhapsodies I dashed off, which is actually pretty fun).
It all began Sunday evening. While wrapping up lesson plans for the week, the ubiquitous “These are Difficult Times” meme popped up on Dragon Common Room, the Telegram chatroom that has spawned two published books (here and here).
I decided to try my hand at composing a short piece (literally, it’s four measures long) in 13/8 (9/8 is really not that difficult; there are a lot of hymns written in that time signature). Here was the result (note the whole tone scale):
It does not sound good, but one of the chat members said he played it on guitar and enjoyed it. Hey, there you go! He found the A# challenging (third fret of the G-string), but figured it out.
Well, the chat rolled on, and member Goth Kilts mentioned that the best way to trigger her (him? I still don’t know; s/he/ said that s/he uses “weaponized androgyny” online, which will make for a great song title) is to “talk about Ethiopia.” Apparently, what we think of today in Ethiopia is somewhat more limited than the Biblical Ethiopia.
Regardless, I joked that “How to Trigger Kilts” would be the name of the next experimental piece I would compose. It was barely a joke at all—but then I wrote an atonal piece in 3/4 time.
Well, s/he loved it, including the recording of it (see below), I think more for the fact that I absurdly composed a piece about an extremely obscure throwaway comment on Telegram. As I always aim to please, I wrote two more “Ethiopian Rhapsodies” to round out the small collection:
The text on the left-hand page of my little music journal reads as follows:
Three Ethiopian Rhapsodies
These pieces don’t have much to do at all w/ Ethiopia, but result from the Dragon Common Room chat.
It started with the “These are Difficult Times” meme, which inspired the two-measure [sic] composition in 13/8 on the previous page. Shortly after uploading that to DCR, someone joked that anything about Ethiopia would trigger Goth Kilts, one of the members of the chat.
That inspired the first of these joke pieces. User LaserCat called me a “simp,” which inspired the second piece.
Such collections come in threes, so I finished w/ “The Italian Job.” Too soon?
Tyler J. Cook
As I noted, these are not very good pieces. I was not sitting at a piano when I wrote them, and I played them very clumsily. That said, they achieved their intended purpose: to surprise and delight.
That said, I did try to maintain some form. The overall key of the Three Ethiopian Rhapsodies is A minor. The second piece, the allegro, is in the relative major of C. The final movement is a grave and disjointed affair, as it depicts (well, sort of) the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.
Here is the first of the Three Ethiopian Rhapsodies: “Ethiopian Rhapsody No. 1: How to Trigger Kilts”:
Now, my personal favorite, “Ethiopian Rhapsody No. 2: The Simp of Addis Ababa,” a rather bouncy little tune about a man who loves too much in the capital of that great, mountainous kingdom:
And, finally, the gravest of the three pieces, “Ethiopian Rhapsody No. 3: The Italian Job”:
I doubt I’ll win any Grammy awards, but I enjoyed dashing off these little pieces—and then hearing the atonal results! It is pleasurable to put pen to paper to write anything, but there is a satisfaction particularly with composing. It’s fun bringing together the notes and unusual rhythms, and I particularly like writing miniatures, little short pieces of a minute or less.
I may very well try my hand at it more frequently—but next time, I’ll be sitting at a piano!