Tensity Ocean

“TENSITY OCEAN” by Tom Sanderson (lyrics by Lori Sanderson)

TENSITY OCEAN
lyrics by Lori Sanderson, music by Tom Sanderson

It can knock you down,
It can pull you under,
to be swallowed
within the waters

Within human life
it still lies
yet not static but with surprise

It can knock you down,
It can pull you under,
to be swallowed
within the waters

All from the tension
that crashes like waves
on the sand

Cast off with conviction
by everyone
yet sporadically overcome

It can knock you down,
It can pull you under,
to be swallowed
within the waters

All from the tension
that crashes like waves
on the sand

The brain reacts to the stress
in a second
or a whole lot less

It can knock you down,
It can pull you under,
to be swallowed
within the waters

All from the tension
that crashes like waves
on the sand

The body reacts to the stress
Emotion and
pain at its best

It can knock you down,
It can pull you under,
to be swallowed
within the waters

All from the tension
that crashes like waves
on the sand

LORI: “I thought [Tensity Ocean] was a good metaphor for stress because feelings tend to ebb and flow just like the waves do”

TOM: After Lori finished the lyrics and handed them to me to put music to, I could hear in my head a rough idea for a decending arpeggiated synth sequence inspired in part by Daft Punk’s soundtrack to “TRON: Legacy.” On top of that, I could hear some tense dance music, similar to certain tracks on Michael Jackson’s 2001 album “Invincible.” Soon after, I started a sequence which took a few hours to put together. I actually started with piano to figure out the song structure. Later I deleted the piano after the song started taking shape.

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Roland FA-06 sequencer display (sorry for the glare)

The benefit of automatic arpeggiators (such as the decenting synth sequence that starts this song) is that synthesizers or computers can easily generate a pattern that human hands could never reproduce – at least not fluidly for some 4 mintues. The mechanical sound that results, however, doesn’t lend itself to all genres of music. But I think it fits the lyrics and complements the rest of the music.

I used an odd lo-fi cartoonish percussion voice (Bit Crush Fx) to generate some sounds, as well as a seashore effect from the FA-06. I had a library CD with a generated effect called “Jupiter lightning” that I pasted lightly on the mixdown in the intro and end parts.

The keyboard solo worked well. Some old synthesizers (1960s and early 1970s) were only able to play one note at a time. If you played a few notes at a time, this sometimes produced an interesting transition. Holding down one note and then playing another results in the new note taking priority but some synthesizers would slide or screech intro the new note. Many synth lead voices on the FA-06 are true to this one-note-at-a-time format (monophonic synthesizer) not because of technology but the transitions sound cool. Like “Inner Ride,” I made use of the oscillator on the pitch wheel joystick – when you push the pitch wheel away from you, it activates a modulation in varying degrees. The default modulation for most synth voices is a vibrato-type effect.

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TASCAM DP-24SD Display

A few weeks later, I recorded the vocals on the Tascam recorder but I ran out of tracks to transfer the entire keyboard sequence. During this mix, I used Studio One version 4 to mix down – my first experience with the application. Alan Sanderson had some valuable suggestions on the final stage of the project, involving effects, EQ and phrasing. Alan was busy with his own complicated mixdowns for “I’m Getting Better” at the time time I was working on this project. My thanks to Lori for such a great song idea – she has a few other ideas I will share in a short time.

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