Krankenwagen: A Siren Song

Clarissa Grunwald
June 17, 2016

So about a month ago I got it into my head that I should try to write an orchestral piece for Berlin. And as of now, one month later, I believe I’ve succeeded, more or less. The result is a song called “Krankenwagen”, which was inspired by some of the sounds I’ve heard walking around Berlin: bike bells, trains, the clicking noise the walk signal makes, and of course that god-awful German ambulance siren.

My music-writing program does an automatic playback, which doesn’t sound too bad, all things considering. For this blog post, I’m attaching an MP3 of that, as well as a few notes explaining what I was thinking.


Listen here >Krankenwagen.mp3


Time: 0.0” -- This is what a German ambulance sounds like. I started with the siren, and then built the melody around it. Variations on this siren sound crop up throughout the song, although this opening one is exceptionally obnoxious. 

Time: 0.36” – Bike bells, played on glockenspiel.

 Time: 1.0” – This is supposed to be the sound of a S-Bahn or U-Bahn taking off, as heard from inside the train. The actual sound is considerably higher, but I liked the brassy glissando effect that you can only get from trombones. Anyway, setting it low made it easier to put a melody on top of it.

In all honesty, the only reason I added a glockenspiel to this song at all is because glockenspiel is a really stupidly German-sounding name for an instrument. I would have thrown an accordion in too, but I have no idea how to write for the accordion.

Anyway, it was a happy choice. In addition to being the bike bells, it creates a neat mechanical sort of effect here.  

Time: 2.04” – This is the ambulance theme again, just very rhythmically altered and set much lower. At around 2.26” the timpani comes in with the original rhythm.

Time: 3.40” --  Berlin looks very modern, except for when it doesn’t. You can be in a very newly-built looking area, all concrete and glass, and look across the street and see a church that, if not actually very old, at least looks it. This weird pseudo-churchy bit that comes out of nowhere in the middle of this very rhythmic song is a sort of nod to that.

Time: 4.19” – This is the sound the walk signs make when it’s safe to cross the street. I believe it’s so that blind people know when the light’s green. I started with this constant one-note pattern (glockenspiel again!) and then riffed off of it.

Time: 5.19” – Originally there was a melody here, which I didn’t like, so I got rid of it and just left the drum part. The only problem is that this playback is really wussy about dynamics. Basically, this should be played louder. 


Hope you all enjoyed!

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Clarissa Grunwald

<p>Writer, composer, musician. American student with a terrible sense of direction set loose on Germany. After years of telling people that I love to travel, this is my first time actually leaving the country.</p>

2016 Spring
Home University:
Franklin & Marshall College
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