Spark in the Night

Tom and Alan Sanderson – Spark in the Night | download mp3

words and music by Tom and Alan Sanderson

You say, “We’re in trouble.
It’s a mess the world is in.”
You say, “We can’t fix it.
Chuck the whole thing in the bin.”

It’s a spark in the night
That grows to the morning light
Don’t give up the fight
There’s a brighter day in sight

There’s a better day headed our way

I say, “It’s all over.
No use in trying again.”
I say, “Heaven help us!
Nobody knows where to begin.”

We’re lost in the tide
Without anywhere to hide
But stand and look wide
It’s the sun on the mountain side

There’s a better day headed our way

What, then, is the lesson
That we learn from adversity?
Faith, hope, appreciation
Work hard, and we’re starting to see

A spark in the night
That grows to the morning light
Don’t give up the fight
There’s a brighter day in sight

There’s a better day headed our way
We’re turning a spark into a day

Tom Sanderson: vocals, organ, electric piano, horns, drums, piano, bass
Alan Sanderson: vocals, guitars, bass, tambourine, mixing, mastering

Tom’s Notes

One of the first musical ideas I had this year was something along the lines of dark synthpop, which probably would point to some gloomy lyrics if completed. I initially shared this idea with Alan but scrapped it as gloom and doom seems to dominate the recent world and regional news and I wanted, if just naïvely, to frame this year on a cheerier note.

A musical phrase popped in my head not long after. I sang a rough brief demo of this line which would become the main riffs of the chorus to “Spark in the Night” and recorded it on my phone. Some of my best ideas come this way and I have a few demos I haven’t really explored yet. Of note, Alan had a eureka moment for the chorus also a couple months later – the melody came to him in a similar manner that the riffs to the chorus popped in my brain.

The sequence was created without really planning out lyrics or phrasing. I suppose it’s mostly a shuffle rock groove but it has some interesting layers, particularly I like how the dynamics change in the pre-chorus which keeps the song from becoming stagnant. The main riffs to the chorus were mainly unchanged from my initial idea. The trumpets are from the Roland FA-06. (I tried to play a real trumpet on a project earlier this year and was frustrated with my skill level and instrument malfunction).

After I shared the project (including a guide vocal without words) with Alan, he quickly fit in a pair of muted guitars that give nice texture in the chorus. I started to try to write the lyrics and had some difficulty. I had a basic melody idea, but some of my early lyrics included 1980’s pop culture references, and also a story form (I’m not too skilled at writing narratives).

Alan added 4 acoustic guitars which sound much like 2 12-string guitars because of different chord forms. The bass sound took a lot of sculpting. Alan tried a lot of ideas and so the end product is a lot of bass tracks sewn together. Alan helped shape the lyrics which were pretty raw from what I started, and of course he added the great lyric and melody to the chorus.

The combination of vocals is primarily Alan’s handiwork. We recorded extra vocal options by singing each part independently and Alan fit the elements together in different spots where it seemed to best effect.

In general, I think the track is satisfying partially because it seems to draw on a variety of musical influences. And we could all use a bit of optimism. I tend to be serious and even a bit pessimistic at times but I am drawn towards music that lifts me up and helps me to smile (maybe to fill my own defects?)

Alan’s Notes

Tom sent me a sketch of this song in late January. He wrote: “Attached is something I’ve been working on for a few days. No title or lyrics yet, but I think the general feel is the way I wanted to start the year.” At the time we had just finished recording the song that embodied the mood I had started the year with. Obviously Tom was a bit more optimistic than I was.

Actually, this song pretty well fits my outlook too. Maybe we got off to a bad start, but things are looking up. 2020 was the pandemic year; 2021 is the recovery year. As of this writing more than 100 million Americans have been vaccinated, and every shot in the arm gets us closer to normal again.

This song was our biggest production to date, as measured by the number of tracks in the song. This turned into such a maximalist “kitchen sink” affair that I decided to share a screenshot of my DAW and collect some stats, which you will find in the section below. I could probably have been more efficient with the number of tracks, and used some automation to combine tracks or something, but this way worked. I upgraded my studio computer recently, and I don’t think my older machine could have handled 39 tracks. I am really liking AV Linux MX Edition and Ardour 6.5.

Production Info

  • Track length: 3:53
  • Production dates: January – April 2021
  • Equipment
    • Tom: Roland FA-06, Tascam 24SD
    • Alan: Ibanez AM53, Takamine G-330, Austin Bazaar bass, Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, Mackie CR3
  • Software: AV Linux MX Edition, Ardour 6.5
  • 39 Tracks, 4 Busses
    • 18 Vocals
    • 6 Keys
    • 8 Guitars
    • 5 Bass
    • 2 Drums/Percussion
  • 52 Plugins
    • 3 Dragonfly Hall Reverb
    • 2 Dragonfly Plate Reverb
    • 1 Dragonfly Room Reverb
    • 4 LSP Limiter
    • 1 TAP Pitch Shifter
    • 1 TAP Tremolo
    • 7 Calf Vintage Delay
    • 1 Calf Multiband Compressor
  • Cover art by Marisa Sanderson using Procreate on the iPad Pro. Lettering by Alan Sanderson using the GIMP.
Composite view of Ardour 6.5 editor window.
Composite view of Ardour 6.5 mixer window.
Alan Sanderson

writing: music:

One thought on “Spark in the Night

  1. Fun music. I know little about all the instruments and tracks but it all comes together to make a good song. I like your voices and how they blend. Great job. Mom/Aunt Venna


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