Endless Time Birthday Song.

Jan 13, 2013

The Free Music Archive ran a competition to write a creative commons alternative to Happy Birthday to You. I wrote one.

The first song I ever re­cor­ded was a cover of Happy Birth­day to You played on a ukulele for Emily Ben­son. I have since re­cor­ded many birth­day songs of my own. A birth­day rap, spoken word/​sample pieces, in­stru­ment­als and two whole EPs ded­ic­ated to people on their birth­days. I have also com­posed two songs spe­cific­ally for new­borns to cel­eb­rate their ac­tual day of birth. One of these new­born songs, re­cor­ded for Re­uben Al­ex­an­der Mil­ner (com­plete with nine seconds of in­tro si­lence re­fer­ring to the nine months be­fore birth) is prob­ably one of the re­cord­ings I am proudest of. I love com­pos­ing songs for in­di­vidu­als and a birth­day is a great op­por­tun­ity to gather ideas about a friend and bring them to­gether as a cel­eb­ra­tion. I have also found that, even if the song is jokey, silly or not as good as I wished it were, people love re­ceiv­ing birth­day songs. My mum says the song I re­cor­ded for her is the best birth­day present she’s ever re­ceived which is nice of her.

When I read about the con­test I thought about what I like about birth­day songs, birth­days and the Happy Birth­day to You song.

I’ve of­ten thought we put too much em­phasis on years and grow­ing older (es­pe­cially on a day) so wanted my song to cel­eb­rate time as an end­less col­lec­tion of reach­able memor­ies rather than something lin­ear.

No year ever ends There are just new ones be­gin­ning all the time. Over­lap­ping.

Was one of my ori­ginal ideas along the theme (ori­gin­ally in­spired by a song about New Year’s Eve/​Day I was writ­ing along the same time­less­ness theme). Then, last week I saw the won­der­ful play Con­stel­la­tions by Nick Payne which is a story of love and life in a sys­tem of end­less time and mul­tiple uni­verses. I felt I had to in­cor­por­ate this concept into the song as it worked so beau­ti­fully.

I wanted something short and mem­or­able so I stuck to around eight lines with a name-re­pla­cing in­tro­duc­tion in the style of Happy Birth­day to You. I wanted to in­tro­duce more vari­ables in the song, prefer­ably for ad­ject­ives such as the “bril­liant” at the start but was told, wisely, by my friend Daniel Cooper that this would make spon­tan­eous group singing dif­fi­cult and could also lead to joke ver­sions that bor­der on be­ing hurt­ful.

Here are the words I came up with:

Per­son you’re bril­liant! Per­son you’re a friend. We’re greet­ing years in all dir­ec­tions, None will ever end All your birth­days in­ter­twine, It’s not a line but end­less time You’re never get­ting older, You’re just greater than you ever, ever were.

A big part of the in­spir­a­tion to take part in the con­test (after be­ing sent the ini­tial in­form­a­tion about it by Mar­tin Robin­son) came from the fact that my (bril­liant) friend Phil­ippa Warr was hav­ing a birth­day party the day be­fore the com­pet­i­tion closed for entries. What bet­ter way to try the song out than in a pub, among friends, be­ing sung to an ac­tual per­son? I there­fore sat down in the cafe at Foyles in Lon­don and wrote up four sets of the lyr­ics (mak­ing note of the free/​open dis­tri­bu­tion/​modi­fic­a­tion/​copy­ing li­cense and not put­ting full stops after the word end) while eat­ing cake and drink­ing tea (seemed ap­pro­pri­ate for a birth­day song). I handed out the lyr­ics at the birth­day pub gath­er­ing at the Red Lion on Kingly Street in Lon­don, did­n’t make any at­tempt at re­hears­ing a melody with the group (al­though I had dabbled with a few this seemed the most nat­ural op­tion) and re­cor­ded the first take live. I think Phil­ippa en­joyed it and I hope someone else re­uses the words in the fu­ture as a Happy Birth­day to You al­tern­at­ive. We make too much of a fuss about age­ing. Why not cel­eb­rate the fact that we’re be­com­ing bet­ter all the time and have more and more stor­ies and memor­ies to fall back on (whether kept with us or with oth­ers)?

Endless Time Birthday Song

by Filip Hnízdo Tracks: 1 Released: 2014

Endless Time Birthday Song (live)

Recorded for Philippa Warr and friends. Red Lion, Kingly Street, London.


___ you're brilliant.
___ you're a friend.
We're counting years in all directions.
None will ever end.
All your birthdays intertwine,
It's not a line, but endless time.
You're never getting older,
You're just greater than you ever ever were.

Tagged with: music poetry