I’m delighted that the latest song from the Duo Ex Machina Song Project is now live and online!
Copper Beaches is a song about acknowledging how big and uncaring the universe is – and also how beautiful it is, and how we care for it, and love each other, despite loss and pain. It’s a song about defying nihilism and finding hope, and choosing those things.
Otherwise, listen to it here on YouTube (and subscribe if you’d like to know when Duo Ex Machina releases its next song!)
I wrote most of the lyrics and main melody; it was refined and arranged by Josh King of Golden Hour Studios, and it features Melbourne singer Lalida, who also worked on the lyric and melody with us.
The Origins of the song
Copper Beaches – as you may tell from the name, which is a reference to the story The Copper Beeches – began life as a lyric for a Sherlock Holmes fanfiction.
I was ficcing as a writing exercise at the time, as I’d been having trouble with a novel at the time. I needed something fun to do, to free up my imagination and to play with different forms.
The prompt I responded to posed the idea that John had once been in a band, and Sherlock finds out. I created a backstory for John not supplied by the show, which included the early loss of his mother and how that tragedy had broken his family. His father and sister fell into drink. But John’s mother had taught him to play guitar, and he clung to music for solace. His father, unable t0 cope, became abusive. It was a pretty dark backstory.
After writing a few short stories based on the idea, I realised that I needed to write some of the angsty songs teenage John would have written for his band.
Copper Beaches was one of the songs I wrote. Within that Alternative Universe, he writes it at a turning point in his life. He’s full of grief and anger, but he has to make a choice whether he’ll become as self destructive as his remaining family, or do something more constructive with his life. In this song, he acknowledges that he is in an uncaring universe, but that the world remains beautiful and he still cares. (This is the point in the narrative in which he joins the army and studies medicine – leading him eventually to Sherlock Holmes and a new and meaningful life.)
Copper Beaches – now
I always like the melody and lyrics for this song, so I sent it to my producer, Josh King, to see what he thought. He loved it! His arrangement is gentler than how I originally heard it, and the bridge needed refinement – Josh and Lalida rewrote that together, capturing the spirit and heart of the song perfectly in a simpler and more evocative bridge than the one I wrote.
While the song was originally written for that previously mentions Sherlock Holmes fan, I snuck the title into my rock ‘n roll vampire adventure novel, Kitty and Cadaver. Actually, I ended up writing a large number of songs for that fanfic – it was a great opportunity to play with form and try my hand at different kind of writing. The songs in both Kitty and Cadaver and the Duo Ex Machina novellas owe their existance to those years experimenting with lyric writing in the Sherlock fandom.
Josh and I have plenty more songs to do together: lyrics from the Duo Ex Machina novellas; from Kitty and Cadaver (some of these have been produced and performed by Melbourne band Bronze) and even more Sherlock-inspired songs which haven’t yet been slipped into another book!