As promised, here’s today’s second Project: Archives post! An unlikely moment of pop simplicity on an otherwise-multi-dimensional and genre-crossing album, this closing track from Mystic Visions was easily my most popular song of the period. I couldn’t imagine a live set that didn’t include “Chivalry and Sorcery,” and it marked the beginning of a shift toward less experimental writing, despite my initial reluctance.
Year Composed: 1987
About the Song
I’ve always thought that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to begin writing a song. Some composers like to start with a particular riff or melodic idea and work from there. Others may lay out the chord progression first and then develop the melody and arrangement accordingly. Some may have a certain concept, story idea, or mood that they wish to convey and base all of their writing and arranging decisions on that. This song was definitely a case of the title directing the composition.
I think I immediately fixated on the “Chivalry” part in particular, imaging something in a major key that was rather anthemic and simple in its construction. I suppose I could sum up my early writing philosophy in general as “anything goes,” where function always tended to trump form and formal songwriting methods and theory played distant supporting roles to imagination, emotional content, and experimentation. I now think that a balance is ideal, where one knows the rules enough to know how and when to most effectively break them in order to achieve a desired result, but also where the emotional spark that inspired the song doesn’t get lost amidst rigid formulas and ill-fitting conventions.
This song was so thoroughly different from the rest of the material that I had been writing that it stood out as being unique despite the fact that it’s one of the simplest, most straightforward songs I’ve ever written. Therein lies the beauty, I suppose. I had merely intended to end Mystic Visions on a positive, hopeful note – the antithesis of where it began – and I suddenly found myself with a song that more than a tiny handful of people could actually relate to. It was the closest thing I ever had to a “hit,” and it quickly found its place as my set closer, providing the kind of driving, foot-tapping familiarity that had previously been missing.
Despite how well-received “Chivalry and Sorcery” was, something felt strangely uncomfortable about it. I had unknowingly ventured into the territory of pop songwriting and something inside me desperately longed to get back to where I had been – the familiar, less-accessible world of “anything goes” experimentalism that I feared I might lose touch with completely if I continued down the path I was currently on. I decided to see just how far away I had strayed by setting aside the Juno and the drum machine and using nothing but my original Yamaha portable to create The Haunt – an album that is as starkly imagination-infused as my earliest work.