Polar Vortex Songwriting Game #1: Alone - (Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe)

Two years ago, my friend & fellow Ann Arbor songwriter Mike Vial started, in the middle of a most heinous winter, what he dubbed the "Polar Vortex Songwriting Game". Basically a group of songwriters getting together online & writing a song from a shared prompt each week. Well, we are back at it this winter and the new rules are a song every two weeks.

The first assignment was to write a poem inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's poem "Alone",  a dark meditation on the struggles of feeling like an outcast among the mainstream of society. For my entry into this weeks game, I took a fairly literal approach to using the poem. I changed the "I's" to "We" in an attempt to make the song more universal & tap into the shared anxiety I and others have expressed over the current state of things.

The song starts on a C#m chord and vacillates between an Aeolian and Dorian-style melody. I wanted to have some open strings ringing out to give an expansiveness to the song.

I stuck faithfully to the Poe poem except for the chorus that I added. I have Mike Vial to thank for the "gaslight" line, as he had been kicking that word around for a few weeks in our political musings. : )

For you aspiring songwriters out there, this song is a compilation of song "seeds" I had been catching for about two weeks. That can be a melody, a line, a chord progression or even just a concept. The idea is to try and "capture it" in it's purest form without feeling the need to develop it right away. That gives the seed time to mature in your subconscious and ensures that you are not adding unnecessary filler that you'd have to sift through later. Once you have let it percolate for a spell, you'll be itching to start adding to it, planting it in the fertile ground of your imagination & using the conscious tools like music theory to help it take shape and blossom.


(Verse 1)

C#m F#

From Childhood's hour
We have not been
As others were
We have not seen
As others saw
We could not bring

A E F#

Our passions
From a common spring

(Chorus 1)

A E F#

Pay a coin to chaos
Cross the screams that made us
Ferry me to waters calm

Through the gaslight
We're the satellites
Orbiting the world alone

(Verse 2)

From the same source
We have not taken
Our sorrow
We could not awaken
Our heart to joy
At the same tone

And all we lov'd
We lov'd alone

(Chorus 2)

Pay a coin to chaos
Cross the screams that made us
Ferry me to waters calm

Through the gaslight
We're the satellites
Orbiting the world alone

C#m D#m E | F#m E B


In our
childhood, In the dawn
Of a stormy life was drawn
depth of good and ill
The mystery binds us still
From the torrent, or the fountain
From the red cliff of the mountain
From the sun that round us rolled
In it's autumn tint of gold

(Outro Chorus)

A E F#

From the the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd us flying by
From the thunder and the storm
And the cloud that took the form

When the rest of heaven blue
Of a demon in our view


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