A Completely Successful Exercise in Planning and Self-Restraint

Sometimes my songs are mercurial and hard to pin down, even to me. Other times, I think I’m being more cagey and subtle than I actually am. And then there are times like this. The title of this song is about as plain as it gets, and completely accurate. This is a “Truth in Advertising” track!

As has been par for the course so far this month, I started very late, and finished far later. Had that time been spent actually writing and recording, that would be one thing, but I would say that it took me at least as long to actually start recording something – anything – as it did to complete the entire track once I got going.

  1. A Completely Successful Exercise in Planning and Self-Restraint Ray Toler 3:37

The sound that got everything started is the pulsing boys choir you hear at the very beginning. I’m not sure if it’s just where it is in the list, but when I’m randomly scrolling around in Omnisphere, I seem to land on this patch a lot more than it would seem likely. I’ve even used it before on a sketch piece that was discarded (this was before Song-A-Day!). But I’m desperate, it’s late, and eh… why not?

I repeated that line out for a few minutes and then tried working things around it. And that’s when one of those happy accidents happened. The intro was sounding nice and dramatic, and I’d put down a couple of lines (later deleted) with other instruments, but then I randomly selected that gated synth transition sound that happens at almost the exact middle of the song, and it completely changed my direction. Where I had been seeing a brooding super spy or hit man, it immediately turned into a practical joker.

I don’t know that I can really recount the composition process, other than to say that the title is about as concise as I can be. (The title is a nod to my friend, Ross’ wonderfully dry sense of humor) I had no plan, I was moving back and forth around the entire track, loading in new sounds, deleting others, until I finally reached a point where I was in danger of seeing the sun come up if I didn’t get a move on. The bassline of the second half is what drove everything.

With a bit of surgery on the overall structure, I cut some measures, got everything lined up, and focused on creating interesting moments and melodies. My favorite sound ended up being one that I named “Chicken” in the project because it made me think of a chicken clucking – it has some of the same qualities that Tomita programmed into The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks in Their Shells from his interpretation of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

More than once, I’d play something that actually made me laugh, and those are a big reason why I write music. If I can make myself smile, or laugh, or cry, then I’ve done something worthwhile. I kept adding more and more things, going way beyond what was reasonable or, indeed, practical. The last thing I added, just to put everything entirely over the top, was the children’s choir at the very end. The first time I played those chords I had to stop because I’d started laughing so much. It was just so ludicrous that there was no way I could remove it

The track is probably far more entertaining to me than to anyone else, and the humor I found in it was a combination of being punchy, stressed out, and simply enjoying what I was doing with no worry about it being good, sensible, commercial, or any other thing. This is a trifle, a folly. I hope that others find something worthwhile in it, but ultimately, this is one of those “pure” things that I wrote entirely for myself and my own amusement. That freedom is one of the major benefits of Song-A-Day and a primary reason I keep doing it.


  • Drums: BreakTweaker
  • All other instruments: Omnisphere / Keyscape / Trilian
  • Effects: Soundtoys PanMan
  • Mastering: Ozone 9

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