Talk:The Blues Engine

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And now for something … different!

It’s always refreshing to find a generator on Abulafia that forgoes the usual elves, dungeons and caverns for a change!

I feel obliged to kick off this comment page, hoping to spark discussion about the intended direction of this valiant attempt. So far, its concept (at least inasmuch as one can be divined) seems A-OK, as does its programming; thematically, however, it seems relatively awkward, verging on cringeworthy, I suspect for lack of familiarity with the genre it attempts (?) to channel. However, for all I know, this effect might be entirely deliberate! Thus this page, where planning notes can be posted so someone like me doesn’t waste time trying to “fix” things by pulling them in unwanted directions.

The overhaul I gave it earlier was about 70% algorithmic. I just manually reverted certain bits here and there, because all together it was too much. Also, taking the whole generator at face value, I couldn’t resist changing a few lines to make them sound a trifle more “authentic” (~ at least for 1920s Delta, not 1950s Chicago blues) – but if the goal was supposed to be parody, this may have made it worse (apologies in advance if so).

Here’s an example: a line about whether to drive or fly somewhere. I thought it was well known that traditional blues singers had only 3 transportation options:

  • hitchhiking
  • catching a freight train
  • walking

So conceptually, the drive/fly line simply “did not compute”, as did many other lines which used poetic turns of phrase instead of simple, literal nouns. But this is meant more as clarification than criticism. Please, tell us how you imagine it. Give us a few hints … and anyone else with ideas should feel free to chime in below also, the better to get us all on the same proverbial page! --MikeyD (talk) 22:53, 18 October 2015 (PDT)

Idea

I wasn’t really going for a parody of the blues, though I can see where it might come off that way. I was looking for a good way to use the form that retains its power without the impossible to adequately represent guitar and vocal inflection that define the genre. It seemed like Abulafia's generators could be made to produce reasonable blues verses, assuming the right structure existed, so here we are.

As far as the thematic element, think Outlaw Blues or She Belongs to Me on “Bringing It All Back Home”—certainly no sense of orthodoxy in Dylan’s blues lyrics, and I don’t think there needs to be. They read fine on the page despite being somewhat surreal, and use the blues structure for their own purpose.

It’s difficult enough to have the resolving lines be free-floating enough to half-way make sense with what comes before them—if they were as vague as most actual blues lyrics, it’d be easier, but I don’t think the content generated would be as interesting, since the vaguer lyrics really only work in the setting of voice and guitar that accompanies them; on the page itself, I think a little poetic diction is justified.

The challenge is not knowing what’s going to come before or after, so your meaning has to reside entirely in the given line, which presents certain difficulties. I think it's enough to try to capture the blues feeling, even if that means letting the bluesman persona disappear in certain lines. But I don't think it needs to be either/or, or even particularly consistent, as long as ultimately each page load can deliver a meaningful couplet; there's room for the Delta, and Chicago, and the Broken Nintendo Controller Blues (if the specific details convey a larger emotional "blues" feeling, of course) as far as I'm concerned.

For what it's worth, the lines get sung in my head by Howlin’ Wolf, not Robert Johnson (who, I'll have you know, sang about driving a car in the Terraplane Blues!)--if we ignore the past 80 years of history to only write about things an actual blues performer in the 30's would write about, I think we're setting a fairly severe limit on ourselves. Or someone could try to organize it even further so that the initial call picks Delta, Chicago, or Modern, and then the various lines are placed in their time period accordingly.