The Story Behind The Zombie Song (Oh, And We Have A Winner)

31 May

Congratulations to Yaser Latef for correctly guessing MacGuffin.

A MacGuffin is a desired object that serves to drive the plot.

It was first used by Alfred Hitchcock who coined the term. And if you think about it, most of his movies revolve around MacGuffins. (Before MacGuffin an earlier term was weenie.)

Thank you for playing. That was quite fun.

Yaser it is. (Could you please make clear the pronunciation? YA-ser…?)

The story behind it is thus:

I had the first two acts all worked out. I hadn’t recorded the 2nd Act, but its plot was sort of written and the MCG already present, (and named) although i had NO idea what it did, or if i was even going to bother getting around to explaining it (hence the name). I also had no 3rd Act.

The idea for how the MCGuffin would actually work i got when i came up with the idea that there would be this hypnotic song of the dead that could just take over your brain upon hearing it. I got THIS idea from….

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Follow me here:

I’m sitting one night dicking around on the net and i stumble across Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on YouTube. Now, this little musical is immensely responsible for my becoming a musician. See, back in 6th grade, i was sort of taking piano lessons, whatever, not really all that interested in them. A music teacher (Mr. Lloyd, a name i say with reverence) from the high school would come done and he pulled a bunch of kids to be in the junior high school choir. He filled a room with us. He then passed out Joseph books to each of us and preceeded to play the whole thing on the piano,, singing along with it at the top of his lungs and making us sing along with him. Even though we didn’t know it, had never heard it, and i’m sure it sounded like… dear Lord is shudder to think.

But here’s the thing…. something clicked in my head. I LOVED it. I went home and proceeded to spend 2 hours sitting and plunking out every melody i could remember from that day. I did this every day. I began trying to figure out OTHER songs i liked. Soon i was actually playing piano. The rest is history.

The reason i tell you this, is because when i find something like J&TATD on YouTube, starring Donny Osmond, after all these years, I have to watch it.

So i’m sitting there watching it when they get to this part that just creeps me OUT.

So the idea is that we’re in a school (junior high) and all the kids come in to an assembly. A woman gets up on stage and begins singing J&TATD (i am NOT writing that fucker out anymore) and through the magic of music and imagination the story comes alive. But every now and then, we go from the story being acted out in front of us, back to the school room to see the bright shiny faces of the lovely children.

So there’s this song A Pharoah’s Story. Instead of being in the world of the musical, for this number we cut back to the kids in the assembly room. And they are singing along to the song. BUT they are SINGING ALONG to lyrics THEY HAVE NEVER HEARD….. AND….. they are singing IN PERFECT FUCKING HARMONY. To a SONG THEY HAVE NEVER HEARD IN THEIR LITTLE LIVES!

Dude, it was creepy as FUCK. Seriously.

All i could think was: how can they sing along in perfect harmony to a song they’re hearing for the first time? There’s no WAAAAAAY. WTF IS GOING ON HERE????? What is with their glassy EYES?!?!  IT WAS CREEPY. AS. FUCK.

And then it hit me.

It’s a fucking voodoo song. And I have a voodoo cult i need to use. A hypnotic song of the dead!!!! OMFG! Thank you, Jospeh!

In my original conception there was going to be this big music number in which Constance would try to battle the song of the dead with another song (The Soiree song) and the two vie for musical dominance. It was gonna be this HUGE, intense number, the songs going back and forth, building in intensity until Constance’s song won.

However, once i started putting together the 3rd Act it became clear (and this is where a discussion with Kevin Hulburt was invaluable), that this is a key moment not just in the plot, but central to the entire theme i’ve been exploring the entire opera: that every one and every group of people assembles a Narrative in their mind, which guides their reasoning and their actions. Everyone, even large organizations, lives according to a Narrative. And most of these Narratives are bullshit. And yet, these bullshit Narratives have very real consequences on people, the world and the propagation of suffering.

While a song battle would be a blast to compose, the moment might be better served with something more profound, using like a Buddhist type of Meta-narrative to draw attention to the fact that it’s all just stories within stories and taking the soldiers, as well as the listener  out of the Narrative through that. Plotwise, it was more awkward, but it was a chance to really nail a deeper moment, and the awkwardness of such a strange plot point might draw attention and cause more interesting reflection on why the fuck the composer would do something so ridiculous. (those of you who have surmised that the Storyville Station song is just a metaphorical recap of  Constance’s life and the show itself, are right on the money.)

And thus Buddhist moment of Zen won over Epic Song Battle.

GawDAMN i ramble.

Okay. So, there you go. The MCG stands for the MacGuffin.  Yaser Latef gets a character named after him. It originally served no purpose other than… well, as a macguffin, but i did eventually get a purpose for it once i saw a really creepy scene from Jospeh.

See y’all next time.

The following is like a horror movie to me:


Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Uncategorized


9 responses to “The Story Behind The Zombie Song (Oh, And We Have A Winner)

  1. Maggie

    May 31, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Congrats to Yusef~ And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch that scene in the same way ever again. >>”

    • Maggie

      May 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      Yaser, I mean, I’m sorry I typed to fast. -facepalm-

  2. Amelia

    May 31, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Congrats. : )

  3. Marz

    May 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm


    I practically live at TV Tropes. How did I not get that lol?

    • Amelia

      May 31, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      I feel ya.

  4. eugene

    May 31, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Congratulations! Now I will remember the story behind this name )
    And this is how author can lead us to some place in the darkness and than …
    Ok, it was really funny
    Thanks Paul

  5. Yaser

    May 31, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Huzzah! I have to say, I feel a little guilty, making you use a name like mine; but, also, yay!

    YA-ser (if you’re pronouncing the ‘A’ like the one in ‘bat’ or ‘rat’ and the ‘ser’ as ‘sir’) is spot on. Perhaps more straightforward to say it’s pronounced the same as Yasser Arafat’s name was pronounced in English?

    I tend to go by Yaz (still using the A in ‘bat’), if that’s easier for you, but I’m not sure why it would be…

    If you fancy yourself a real challenge, here’s Yasser Arafat’s widow using the Arabic pronounciation of the name: . But, it’d probably be even weirder for me to hear that, than it would be for everyone else.

    So, yes; you’re right, but also – options (though they probably don’t help very much)!

    Also, thank you *so* much, both for making this (I’ve basically been listening to both New Albion Operas on repeat for the last month or so) and for the competition!

  6. paul

    May 31, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Yaser, your name will work just fine. I know exactly the character you’ll be. (look for the 3rd Act.) I can say no more (spoilers), but if it’s any consolation, you will not be humping poodles. You’ll be an honorable badass and i think you’ll be perfectly pleased (unless you were really hoping for the poodle humping role in which case i apologize profusely for misleading you into thinking there was a poodle humping role at all.) Congratulations. You’ll have to wait a year of course.

    Everyone else, this was fun! If i think of another egg, i’ll hold the same contest again cause i really enjoyed the responses. You’re all actually vastly more clever than i could ever be. If i do do this again, naturally, Yaser, you’re retired from competing. I can’t have an entire opera full of people named Yaser. (“Yaser, i love you!” “I love you too, Yaser” “I can’t stay, i have to go visit my mother and father, Yaser and Yaser”.)

  7. Tina Ng

    June 1, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Grats Yaser, and thanks for doing that Paul. I failed to attempt the question but it was fun to watch the responses.


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