chopped liver productions
saving the world with song, video and commentary
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if u build it
Thinking deep. Or not thinking at all. Sometimes it's the same thing.

writing the song
Usually the words come first, but this one started with a tune in three-four time. It wouldn't leave my brain so I thought, "What words fit this melody?" and quickly the answer was, "If you build it, will anyone come?"

Hm, methinks: What is THIS about?

Well, in part, it seems, it's about this very song-a-month project. If you put songs out there into the world and the world responds with, "Ho hum, what's Miley Cyrus up to?" is the project a failure? I said from the beginning that I didn't expect to get a whole lot of Internet traffic off the song-a-month schtick, so my complete obscurity should not be an issue in any way.

So why does it bother me?

While all this was roiling around in my brain, our friend Danny came to visit. He's a composer. That is his livelihood and passion, and what he does every day. He is tragically gifted. He's composed many classical pieces which have been performed by orchestras and opera companies. He has relentlessly followed his passion. And he is very, very poor.

We talked into the night about the difficulty of choosing your passion over financial security, and how hard it is to get one's work noticed. He said he has contacted plenty of agencies in Los Angeles and New York, fully expecting at least MOST of them to throw his letters away without a thought ... and hoping that one, just one, sees what Danny is trying to do, and decides to throw some support into his talent and ideas.

"It's just a message in a bottle. I don't know what else to do," he said.

What a perfect metaphor. That's why the last line in the last verse of this song is, "You gambled your life on a note in a jar."

So, this one is for the dreamers. You know who you are, and you're not the only one.

It's funny, but when I think about the writing of these songs I remember exactly where I was when certain favorite lines ran through my mind for the first time. I sang "If you build it" while riding my bike over some very bumpy train tracks in Northwest Portland. By the time I came up with "you gambled your life on a note in a jar," I was on a leafy residential Northeast street and a gentle mist was hanging in the air.

And yet there are some songs I have almost no recollection of writing. They came so quickly and asserted themselves so boldly that resistance was futile. All I know is, the inspirations seem to come when I'm out walking or biking in the fresh air, and I'm thinking about something or nothing, and then suddenly BOOM! I get punched in the head by a persistent melody and/or turn of phrase that won't let me go.

The chorus of this song was like that. That lilting three-four time signature drew me in. As soon as I got home I started feeling it out on the piano, and when I went looking for a melody for the verse, it jumped right out of my fingers and turned into notes in the air.

Wow, that was easy. Except: No words.

Later that evening, right around bedtime, I suddenly got these amazing words: "You heard your heart beating, and you followed the sound." Oh wow, that's really cool. I gotta use that.

Except by that time I couldn't remember my easy melody line for the verse. Oh crap.

So I did the best thing I could do: I wrote out my new lyrics and went to sleep. I went to work the next day. I came home humming the chorus, and BAM! Oh yeah, THERE'S that other melody I liked so much. Now, does it go with my words from last night?

It really didn't, but it was easy to make the adjustment. The verses filled themselves in after that, especially with Danny throwing out such lovely metaphors the night before.


if you build it
janice leber 2014

You heard your heart beat, and you followed the sound
You felt your blood flow till you thought you might drown
Now, on the work of your life you're breaking ground

but if you build it, will anyone come?
will you come undone in the light of the sun?
and if you break it, will anyone care?
or will your great dare disappear in the air?

You thought you had wings and decided to fly
You needed a home, you bought a piece of the sky
Now it seems it's your obligation to try

You sparkle and shine like the diamond you are
You've been through the wars, I've seen the scar
You gambled your life on a note in a jar

making the video
Quote from me (Nov. 9): "I decided the little guy waited about a second and a half too long to start building the palace, then built it too fast. He finishes at the right time, but starts too late. I'm on Day Two of making that adjustment."

That's what animation is like. This cartoon was so incredibly tedious to create. The Taj Mahal sequence alone took two days (before I decided to adjust the timing), but still required tweaking up to the very end. I know there are funky, jumpy bits here and there, but those are the ones I couldn't figure out how to fix. There were many, many more I did figure out how to fix, but some elements of animation remain mysterious and frightening.

I'd say it took about six weeks to do this animation. I started out with the idea of a stick figure building something, and people not being terribly interested or impressed, and wasn't sure where to go from there. The very act of starting the cartoon was the impetus to deciding what would happen next. In the process I got a little better at working the animation software -- but only just a little.

I can't wait to do another animation for December. Actually, I wouldn't mind waiting a while.