Vampire Empire

I wrote “Vampire Empire” almost three years ago – February 13, 2007, to be exact. Like a lot of my Halloween Carols™, it was a study of counterpoint on the couch. (Counterpoint is a type of musical composition.) I had gone through a very painful break-up the year before which sent me into a black hole, and the couch became the hub for most of my activities.

Oh, I won’t gloss it over by calling it a break-up. It was a dump – let’s be honest. I was dumped. Dumpee. Frumpy Dumpy. Dumpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Dumpty Dumpty had a grrrrreeeeeaaaaaat fall. But COME ON! Where were all the king’s horses and the king’s men? Nowhere to be found, I’ll tell you. King’s men would have been nice.

I tried so hard to be optimistic and forced myself to continue exercising daily by running, biking, or even just walking, but I could hardly write any music. In fact, I don’t think I wrote any music for quite a while. And then, many of us go through this, where we tell ourselves, “OK. Come on. Come on. It’s time to get living again. Just try. Little bits. Little bits.”

So I tried little composition exercises in counterpoint for fun, starting each one as a study, not knowing if it would work, but just trying for the sake of trying. I did all of these lying down on the couch because I wasn’t completely happy enough to sit up straight at the keyboard (except to check on chord progressions now and then).

I wrote a good number of my carols in addition to “Vampire Empire” during this period – A Broom With A View, Arachnitect, Mostly Ghostly, and Flappy Bat are the ones I’ve released so far. It really is amazing how we grow stronger after sad experiences. For me, it was deciding to be content and happy without the man I thought I might marry … and seeing my composition skills reemerge and become more refined and creative.

When I was deciding which carols to put on the CD for this year, I knew I had to put a vampire song in there. Of course! The world is afire with vampires. I wrote this carol before I had heard of Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight novels, but I’m glad I had something in stock to offer during this craze.

I arranged and “fluffed up” Vampire this past summer in preparation for recording. This carol is different from the others in that I worked some of it out in pencil, and some of it while I recorded. I just told myself to keep building and patching it together.

I came to a predicament when writing the harpsichord lines. The purist and the experimentalist inside me clashed. During a few parts, I wanted the harpsichord bass lines to dip down to a D. A real harpsichord only goes to an F. But with a synthesizer, I could do anything. The purist inside me screamed, “NOOOOOO!!!! Don’t do it!!!! That’s not what a harpsy does!” But the experimentalist inside me cooed, “Oooooh yeah! Mmmmm, that sounds so cool. Sooooo cool. Ooooh, honey.”

So, what did I do? Time to pull out the old mantra … WWBD?

What Would Bach Do?

And I went for it, dipping that harpsy line down to a D. Oh yes. My mantra came through. If Bach had all the musical technology available today, he absolutely would use it to its far-reaching ranges. There are stories of his playing bizarre combinations of organ stops, exploring very non-traditional colors of the pipe organ. What a musician. The ultimate musician.

Something to listen for is my re-harmonizing of the melody in each verse (different chords each time). I’ve always admired how Bach could take a single melody and harmonize it in multiple ways, and so … WWBD … I wanted to do that, too.

I wore red lipstick while I recorded the vocals, trying to achieve a vicious beauty in the sound. I had studied the characters of the vampire wives in “Van Helsing” and was trying to channel a similar personality. My laughter at the end of the song came while pushing the limits of this vampire character in take after take after take. I had tried some dramatic “muah ha ha” laughs during a take, but they sounded so ridiculous that I started laughing at what I just did – and those are the laughs in the CD recording.

Succulent biting and sucking to our desire

Forever mark the Vampire Empire.

Come have a taste of our vicious kisses

Then drink, awake to the pulsing blood where bliss is.

Undead, un-reflected, seeking a neck to bite,

We shun the sun and hark the dark night.

Don’t cross us, or pointed words from our lips

Will stab your gloat – and throat – ending in dripping sips.

Garlic or our lick? Will sticky blood be your pick?

Drains by Romanian fangs are quick.

Sharpen your smile and, while midnight dancing with us,

Chase lushly the blush of Eternal Spring.