In perspective: “Form of Life”

Note: Each week, John and I are going to try to post one of our creative works along with a brief commentary on the story behind the piece and how technology played a role in its creation, production or inspiration. We will then discuss the posts more in depth during a segment on the next webcast.

“Form of Life” by Brian Kelley

This song dates back to probably around 1988 or ’89, when I bought my Ensoniq Mirage sampling keyboard. Back then, I used to buy all my gear at The Music Place in Sea Girt, N.J., which was run (and maybe still is?) by multi-instrumentalist Gary Cuccurullo, cousin of Warren Cuccurullo of Frank Zappa, Missing Persons and Duran Duran fame. Gary allowed me to to copy a few sample disks as a throw-in with the Mirage purchase. One of these disks included this great stadium rock drums sample, which unfortunately went missing a couple of years later.

Anyway, I started out with the drum pattern using that sample and used a very simple bass part consisting of long, sustained notes played with a deep synth bass sound. I then added the lead synth using a Moog-like sound and eventually came up with a verse and chorus. It kind of had this techno-progressive rock vibe that I was kind of digging.

But that’s where it stopped. I did have some ideas in mind for lyrics, but I never added them to the original rough recording. I never even added a bridge.

So when GarageBand became available for the iPhone a couple of years ago, I did some experimenting with it and decided to put a “full” song together using nothing but the iPhone. I went back to this song because of its simplicity and I thought it would be relatively easy to recreate on GarageBand for iPhone (it was, but a bit trickier than I first thought). I then quickly wrote some lyrics based on my original concept from the late 1980s and recorded those with the iPhone microphone and some added vocal effects.

This was the result…and there’s still no bridge.

Update: Here is the original version, just to compare…

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8 thoughts on “In perspective: “Form of Life”

  1. I like it, it sounds really like a 80’s song. it reminds me a lot of things. 🙂
    Did you try to sample sounds from your old keyboard ? but I think it may be a bit tricky, I wanna do that, but I seriously got a lack of time. :p

    • Thanks. I’ve added the original concept recording from 1988/89 at the end of the post, for comparison’s sake. I could have sampled the old recording and looped the pattern, but a) I no longer have the sample for my keyboard (I lost the floppy disk many years ago), and b) I wanted to also explore using the instrument controls on the iPhone (i.e., the virtual keyboards and drum kits). And, yes, I also suffer from the dreaded lack of time.

  2. OK, I have changed the video of the original version of “Form of Life” to unlisted rather than private, so everyone should be able to view it now. Sorry about that.

    • (there is no problem)
      The 1988 version is pretty cool. I like the sort of resonance (or persistance) of the drum in it.
      They are both really good work.

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