Masters of the House

Last week turned out quite different from what I had imagined. A not insignificant amount of time was spent applying the first coat of paint on new paneling for my house. Emma and I were invited to a wedding party on Saturday, but on Wednesday the remainder of our week was turned on its head when we ended up actually hosting the party itself!

On Thursday afternoon, Emma and I cleared the big hall of construction material, paint buckets, tools and debris. Starting the same evening and throughout Friday, the wedding planners kept bringing stuff in and decorating the hall. It ended up looking quite lovely, even though it is still very much a work in progress and far from finished, with the rough interior wall structures visible and even plain electrical and ethernet tubing running across the walls. Just look at how pretty they made it, though.

The couple had decided on a simple civil ceremony with only the very closest family members present, instead inviting all of us to this lovely party immediately afterwards. Their original plan was to hold the party at their house not far from where I live, but as the weather promised an almost literal torrent of rain throughout the day, they scrambled to find an alternate solution with only three days to go.

Emma had volunteered to make raspberry cupcakes, meringue tops and lemon curd shortbread cookies. Various guests contributed with either savoury foods for the main buffet or sweets for the dessert buffet as a kind of high-class, super-sized potluck. The couple and their extended families supplied some of the food as well, and perhaps more importantly, the drink (of which there was plenty). The entire affair was delightfully familial and relaxed and even though going in I had only met five or six people before everyone was nice and approachable and fun to chat with.

Painting wall paneling is a meditative task.

My own contribution to the festivities was a trio of quizzes where the eight tables, forming teams of six, competed against each other. First up was a travel quiz in the vein of enormously popular Swedish game how På spåret (“On the Track”). Essentially, I described a trip by car (by train in the TV show) from point A to B with each table guessing the destination as early as they dare based on the clues I give. The clues obviously get easier the closer I come to the destination. I had chosen to begin the trip at the married couple’s apartment and the final destination their summer house, where the party was originally going to be held.

The second quiz was a music quiz in three parts. In the first part, the tables had to guess in which language the vocalists were singing in five different songs. In the second part, I played five other songs up to a certain point and the tables had to write down what lyrics came after I stopped the music. In the last part, I played four songs and asked two trivia questions about each song.

For the music quiz I had to make short edits of the music I included in the quiz. I wanted the quiz to move along at a brisk pace to avoid boring the crowd and instead of simply playing and pausing tracks in Spotify I wanted to make nice-sounding, bespoke cuts to use in the quiz. That was sometimes easier said than done. In particular, the four tracks I picked for trivia questions needed to be cut down to between a minute and a half to two minutes, giving the tables a reasonable amount of time to come up with their answers. Cutting down both Ricky Martin‘s La copa de la vida and Ed Sheeran‘s Barcelona were quite simple as they stayed in the same key and both followed a strict, steady beat.

Much more difficult were John Williams‘ “Raiders March” from Raiders of the Lost Ark and “Tonight” from West Side Story by legends Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Both change keys quite liberally, both are way longer than two minutes and both have a slightly flexible tempo throughout which serves the music quite well but made my job in this case also quite harder. In both of these cases I ended up making quite brutal cuts, removing much of the original track in the case of “Tonight” and most in the case of “Raiders”.

“Tonight” follows this structure: Intro, Verse, another Verse, a Bridge, a short Interlude, another Verse, then an extended Chorus, and after another short Interlude we are in a different key – a minor third above the former. Another Verse leads straight into a second Chorus, this time with the main melody juxtaposed with regular interjections from various characters in the story leading up to the song’s big climax. I ended up cutting the song down by two minutes by going straight from the first two verses to the first chorus and towards the end of that chorus fading into the second chorus at a point where the end result (almost) sounds like a harmonic modulation to that new key. It took me a while to figure out this solution but I am quite happy with how it turned out. Here is my short edit along with a picture of the audio track showing my cuts and corresponding cross-fades.

My cut of “Tonight” from the 2021 film version of West Side Story featuring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, et al.
The track view of the audio file above, as seen in Reaper.

Compare, if you will, my cut to the original track from the movie’s soundtrack. You can follow along in the different parts of the song as outlined above and try to catch the key change after the first chorus, where it is supposed to occur.

On the soundtrack to Raiders of the Lost Ark, “Raiders March” is preceded to the track “Washington Ending” which leads straight into the march. So for my edit, first I had to cut out the first big brassy stab that links the two tracks for a clean start. I could have picked another recording – after all, there are several – but I wanted to use the original soundtrack version. (Why make things easy for yourselv when you can make them hard instead?) The track “Raiders March” is kind of like a little medley or suite, with other prominent themes from the soundtrack as well as variations on the march theme itself. I focused on the march theme, keeping the entire first entry of the march intact, but cutting much sooner than in the original into a key change (still within the march theme) and finally grafting the very end of the march onto that part. My edit is thus made up of three parts of the original track – the main part being 0:54–2:10, the key change at 2:29–2:44 and finally the last hit at 6:07–6:10. Where the original track finishes off with a cute little coda, I just fade out gracefully. Take a listen.

My cut of “Raiders March” from the original soundtrack to Raiders of the Lost Ark by John Williams.
The track view of the audio file above, as seen in Reaper.

Once again, compare my abbreviated version to the original. You can find the parts I used based on the timestamps I listed above.

The final quiz, or game rather, was a rebus. I enjoy word games and the like so constructing the rebus was a lot of fun. I woke up real early one morning, around 4 AM, and was wide awake so trying to fall back asleep seemed pointless. On a whim I got to working on the rebus and had it finished a couple of hours later, when Emma woke up. It is in Swedish, so it might not make a whole lot of sense to you but in case you do understand Swedish – or are simply curious anyway – here it is. I will post the solution here next week. Also next week, I will give you an update on my progress with the Christmas oratorio. Till then, as they say.

A few tips: Operators apply only within parentheses. Words do not necessarily end at line breaks. A single word may be made up of of several combinations of parentheses and/or pictures. And once again: The solution is in Swedish.