by Andrew Eigel
Vocal: Michelle Dockrey
Guitar: Tony Fabris
Cellos: Betsy Tinney
Violin: Sunnie Larsen
Drums and Percussion: Brian Richardson
Bass: Chris Clark
Hands chip the flint, light the fire, skin the kill
Feet move the tribe, track the herd, with a will
Mankind struggles in the cellar of history
Time to settle down, time to grow, time to breed
Plow tills the soil, plants the seed, pray for rain
Scythe reaps the wheat, to the mill, to grind the grain
Towns and cities spread to empire overnight
Hands keep building as we chant the ancient rite
Coal heats the steam, push the piston, turns the wheel
Cogs spin the wool, drives the horses made of steel
Lightning harnessed does our will and lights the dark
Keep rising higher, set our goal, hit the mark
Crawl out of the mud
Ongoing but slow
For the path that is easy
Ain't the one that lets us grow
Light, push the sails, read the data, cities glow
Hands type the keys, click the mouse, out we go
Our voices carry round the world and into space
Send us out to colonize another place
Hands make the tools, build the fire, plant the grain
Feet track the herd, build a world, begin again
About the Song
This has been a favorite filk song of mine and Fishy's for so long that I genuinely don't remember where I first heard it. It might have been in a songbook we bought & tried to learn from in our earliest years of filking, wayyyyyy back before I ever met Tony.
I've always liked to call it the Age of Empires song, which dates me a little bit. (Oh, those LAN parties.) If the reference is lost on you, think Sid Meier's Civilization.
About the Recording
The song is a "build"; both its tempo and its energy increase gradually and steadily over the course of the song. This means that there's no tempo map to sync to, so from an editing perspective I was flying blind with this one. No tempo map means timing edits are super tricky, especially when you have to export/import tracks into other tools sometimes. Oddly, this didn't turn out to be quite as difficult as Dawson's Christian, even though Dawson had a tempo map for most of the song.
Brian's drums and Chris' bass are just perfect for this build, giving all of the right kicks at the right moments to bring it to the next level for each section. There's a drum fill that Brian does right before "Light, push the sails", which is just wonderful, it feels like the song is switching to its highest gear at that moment (but not in a bad way).
I think some of the chords that I play on the guitar during the bridge section may deviate slightly from what Andy originally wrote. It's been so long since I've heard any other version of this song that now I don't really remember how the original bridge went.
The "industrial revolution" verse ("Coal, heats the steam...") has a sound effect applied. I took Brian's kick drum and hi-hat tracks, duplicated them, and applied a bunch of processing to them so that their echo decays sounded similar to the whoomph-hiss sound of a steam train starting up. It's very subtle, but it adds some texture and gives the appropriate feel to that particular verse.
In the end, I think this ended up being one of the most fun and energetic pieces on the album.