We’re getting very close to heading back to the studio in the next few months.  We’ve been rehearsing many of our new songs, working on things in shifts in sectional rehearsals, and occasionally amassing the full orchestra for rehearsal.  One of the more difficult pieces we’ve been working on will be the second track on the album.  It is an epic song that makes use of our full group plus choir.  It is called “Someday.”  I began writing “Someday” in 2011 during a 2 day snowstorm.

Cars abandoned on Northbound Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

On February 1, 2011, a mammoth snow storm covered the city of Chicago, burying cars, making streets inaccessible, and forcing businesses to shut down until the city’s snow plows could clear paths for traffic.  My car was one of those entombed in the frozen precipitation, and further buried when snow plows finally made it to my part of town.  My drafty 19th century apartment was barely comfortable as the outside temperatures dropped below zero and snow continued to fall.  I washed dishes over and over again in an effort to keep my hands warm.  I walked around the house in 3 layers of clothing, running space heaters, and the forced air heat as high as they could go.

I feared that the electricity in my apartment might fail.  I was afraid the pipes might freeze.  I was afraid that the heat would stop working.  I was afraid I’d never see the outside world ever again.

After several hours of panic, I accepted the situation.  I set out to use the time for creative meditation.  I went to my bookshelf, grabbed some piano and vocal scores, and several books for reading.  Sonatas by Mozart, dance suites by Bach, etudes by Martinu, essays by Rousseau, a history of the occult, and a copy of “Frankenstein” became my entertainment for the next three days.

I spent hours reading, playing, singing, drawing, and writing.  Midway through the second day of the blizzard, I was washing dishes and began singing a melody that arrived in my brain.  It was a very simple idea, really: repeated broken 3rds in A minor on 8th notes, descending one step each bar.  I sang this out loud for about 10 minutes straight, trying to imagine this turned into a song or instrumental piece for DSO.  I was, at first, convinced that it was too simple of a thing to use, that it was too much like an etude from Hanon’s “The virtuoso pianist”.

“Someday” – Intro

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But, after 10 minutes, I also began singing the words, “Someday, somehow, somewhere!…someday!”  After repeating these words and melody several times as well, it was clear that the music was pursuing me, so I decided to write these two ideas on paper.

The thirds became a piano part, which was then repeated by violins.  This was then followed by the vocal part I came up with.  After writing all this out, I decided that I would take the etude-like nature of the music and expand that idea for the entire DSO ensemble.  The result was a super thick arrangement with cross-string arpeggios in the viola and cello, the descending 3rds motive in the violins and guitars, followed by a percussive, syncopated hand over hand riff for the piano.

“Someday” – Verse

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For the next few days, I focused on this song, either writing more notes on paper, writing lyrics, or revising what I already had.  Within three days, I had composed the first 2 verses of the song, and sketched out lyrics for the remainder of it.  I was thinking about the crazy situation I might find myself in if the snow didn’t stop, or if I was left without heat and power.  Desperation, fear, hope that things would eventually turn for the better.

It was another 2 months before I had completed the song.  I not only wanted to show off the virtuosic talents of the musicians in DSO, but I felt compelled to explain the desperation of the situation in which the music was written.  It wasn’t just about desperation, but also about the yearning for something more than our reality, the yearning to change our reality, and the conviction that we are agents of change capable of anything if we dedicate ourselves to a purpose.

I wanted to explain this city I live in, and specifically my neighborhood.  The poverty, the garbage, the neglect by the city to maintain this area, and the anonymity of the masses of undocumented immigrants who inhabit this place.  I wanted to explain my own view of it: the agoraphobic onlooker, overwhelmed by trepidations towards the world outside.

And I wanted to discuss the loneliness of it all.  The feeling of sorrow as those who we have the chance to see as individuals leave this city or leave this life.  “I am at a loss for the words to describe the feeling that you get when somebody else dies.”

Ultimately, I was compelled to include an homage to Schönberg at the end of the piece, underscoring the words “…that we might change everything.”  The material I used is taken from his “Sechs kleine Klavierstücke” Op.19 no.6.  The bell-like sounds of the stacked 4ths and 5ths in the piano, harp and guitar, hearken to Schönberg’s micro-composition lamenting the death of Gustav Mahler.

“Someday” – Outro

Music and Lyrics by Mark Winston
Performed by the Dead Superheroes Orchestra and Golosá
July 29, 2011

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Sometimes when writing, one struggles to be creative or to write anything at all.  The process of writing “Someday” was much the opposite.  I felt as though the song was literally pursuing me for three months straight.

It is terrifically exciting to imagine that we’ll be recording this song soon.  I’ve included some fragments of the song, which were rendered in MIDI by Finale.  I’ve also attached the outro fragment from our performance of this song with Golosa at the Abbey Pub on July 29, 2011.