just like with a work of fine art, the title of a song can provoke an instant suggestion about the nature of the piece itself and, just like with a book cover, it’s natural to judge a song by its title. so the task of titling a piece of music is imbued with a serious amount of gravitas and responsibility!
as such a title needs to perform as its own entity, luring the listener in while conjuring a perfect and often intellectually satisfying meaning to an otherwise isolated phrase or sentence and, by default, the song itself.
over a career spanning decades bob dylan has been credited with writing 460 songs and thus had to decide upon as many titles, while the beatles are credited with 275 songs and their titles. over the period of just two and a half years the cube orchestra has recorded over 1000 pieces of music. that’s over 1000 individual song titles to compose.
perhaps the first question should be ‘why bother?’
as long as i can be bothered to record the weekly cube orchestra sessions and upload them onto the internet i’ll need a method for referring to pieces when speaking subsequently about them and, in my opinion, the best way is through description.
so, tasked with having to come up with about a dozen titles every week, how easy is it?
ordinarily a song has a chorus with a catchy, repeated line as the title, but the cube orchestra doesn’t operate in the verse/chorus world. that said, sometimes it’s incredibly easy, as a player might say something suggestive, either at the start or end of a piece, or within it in the form of a lyric. it’s true to say that if someone sings something over and over again i’ll probably use that, though sometimes i mis-hear what’s being sung and consequently mis-title a track! ‘dance, fluffy lips, dance’ is a case in point; it should’ve been called ‘dance, flappy lips, dance’. still, that’s the easiest method.
without a specific cue i’m left to audition the session as it unfolds and consider my choice of a suitable title.
occasionally the atmosphere of the piece speaks so loud it’s hard to ignore. a seemingly chaotic piece i auditioned sounded like cavorting around on a roller coaster so it became known as ‘fairground ride’. similarly, another chaotic piece became known as ‘rush hour traffic’. the difference between the two might be somewhat lost on some ears, but to me each piece sounded exactly as titled. check out the cube orchestra video for ‘we’re going to the moon, then coming back again’ …
if a lyric doesn’t present itself, or a mood or experience grab me, then maybe a word will spring to mind, possibly a word i’ve only just come up with and i have to hit google to see if it exists and what it’s meaning is. maybe from that long-shot i’ll find a line of expression to fit the music unraveling in my ears. an example of that would be with the word ‘mesmetron‘. i have no idea how it popped into my head, but it did while i was listening to a specific section so i looked it up. it might only exist in the realm of fantasy, but there it is! another weird word that somehow leaked into my brain is ‘kontakion’ whereby after a little investigating i ended up with the title ‘kontakion in the plagal of the fourth tone‘ for a super orchestra piece
very occasionally i’ll get to the end of a twenty-minute piece of music without anything to go on, nothing having sprung to mind, at which point i have to stop the editing process, go back and listen again, only more carefully. one thing’s for sure, there is always a sense of urgency to the process, as i’m trying to get the session divided up, named, zapped, exported, meta-tagged, zipped and uploaded to the cube orchestra website. i don’t give myself the luxury of time to digest each piece until satisfied i have the perfect title. it has to be decided upon with nothing more than the option of a second pass.
so what makes a good title?
what makes a good book cover? something that conjours up more than a picture, something that stimulates the brain at a deeper level, whether intellectually, humorously, or perhaps downright mysteriously. here’s an a-z of my personal cube orchestra favourite titles:
- Anthem For Seeing In A Darkened Room
- Blessed Destiny, Be My Finger Of Fortune
- Cuneiform Supplication
- Deep In The Woods I See A Clearing
- Everything We Do Is Noted
- Fill Your Heart With The Promise Of What’s To Come
- Garden Of Easton
- How To Use The Mesmetron
- Ill-Prepared For The Wonder
- Jitta Finga Throat Lozenge
- Kontakion In The Plagal Of The Fourth Tone
- Looked Around And Drank It All In
- Make Way For The Bandersnatch
- Nothing’s Touching Me Today
- Once A Man, Two Times A Lady
- Prelude To A Quaalude
- Quietly Having It Large
- Secret Silver Service
- Took A Long Time (To See What The Truth Is)
- The Unifying Consequences Of Grooving
- Vox Preposto A La Austin Allegro
- Wake Up And Smell The Posers
- You Shine The Light, We See The Stars
- Zap It
[note to self: need to work on the x’s!!]