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2006-05-21


I have dreams. Not the kind that happen when you're sleeping. I don't really have that kind. If I do then I don't remember them.

I mean the kind you have when you're awake. Like dreaming of having a bigger house or meeting my favorite author or dreaming that the girl dining alone on the other side of the restaurant will ask if she can come sit and chat with me.

Some of the dreams stay with me for years; others come and go with the wind.

One thing I've dreamed about ever since I've started writing songs was a music box that played one of my songs.

Last night it happened.

Normal music boxes play the music off of a rotating cylinder. There are splines on the cylinder, and they pluck tuned metal bars as they rotate by it. The length of the song is dictated by the diameter of the cylinder.

But, not with Christoffer's fancy do-it-yourself music box kit! Christoffer's machine plays music more like an old fashioned player piano—using paper strips with holes punched out of them.

He sat and listened to my song "I Don't Want To Leave This Place" and figured out how to simplify it for the music box. First he had to transpose it to the key of C, since that was the only key the music box could do—it doesn't handle any sharps or flats.

He took one of the machine's special long strips of paper and started marking on it with a pencil—each mark indicated where a note would go. Then he punched a hole through each pencil mark with a special little metal hole maker—a device that looked like giant tweezers.

Why did this come up? Well, the idea was to have the music box play the chords and melody of the song's chorus as an introduction.

We had to slow the tape machine down about 18% in order to make the keys match up. An 18% decrease in speed shifts the pitch of the audio down 1.5 musical steps. This was exactly what we needed to match the key of the music box with they key of the other instruments on the track.


I sat in the big studio with headphones on and big microphones hanging around me and I tried to crank the lever on this tiny machine at just the right speed to match the music.

Getting a perfect take turned out to be far tougher than I thought.

Imagine two very different wind-up toy cars. You need to wind them up and start them from the same point so that they cross a finish line at exactly the same time. This is what it's like trying to play a hand-cranked music box along with a recording.

It took a lot of tries before I got it right, but I eventually got a take worth keeping.

I still don't have that big house, I haven't met my favorite author, and the girl across the restaurant doesn't come and sit with me. But, somewhere far from home there's a music box that plays my song.

Your dreams can only come true if you dare to dream them in the first place.

Click here to listen to a bit of the music box version of my song "There You Are."


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