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New Song: Of Salesman

By July 6, 2021July 8th, 2021music, Tuesday Groove Kabobs

Hello there. Here is a new song for you. It is called “Of Salesman”.

It is inspired by a short story by Ted Chiang called “What’s Expected Of Us”. That story is one of many science fiction stories published in his book Exhalation: Stories. I wrote this song a few months ago and performed it with The Bushwick Book Club Seattle at one of their virtual events.

“What is Expected of Us” is a story that investigates the notion of free will.  It is about these little devices called Predictors that are for some reason all the rage.  On this machine is a button and a green light. And no matter how hard you try, if the green light flashes you have to immediately press the button. There’s nothing you can do about it. You have to press the button. It’s impossible to resist.

What is happening in reality though is that right after you press the button, the machine sends an electrical signal back in time to tell the green light to flash right before your press the button. This creates a bizarro reality time loop that proves that there is no such thing as free will.

A lot of folks who try the predictors have trouble reconciling with this whole lack of free will concept.  Their brains go crazy and they become paralyzed with utter meaningless despair. Fascinating stuff!

“What’s Expected of Us” was my favorite short story in Exhalation. I recommend you read it one day.

My song “Of Salesman” imagines a traveling door-to-door Predictors salesman with a lot of charm. He uses that charm to sell Predictors to idiots.

So where did this salesman concept come from you ask?  I will tell you in the bonus song nuggets section below.

Before I do that, please take three minutes of your day and listen to the song.


Bonus Song Nugget #1

You know Rush… Of Salesman!!

Since “What’s Expected of Us” is about free will, my mind immediately jumped to the classic Rush song “Freewill”

And now that my mind was on Rush, it was impossible not think of “Of Salesman”

And there you have it! I now have my song concept of a predictors salesman.

Here is a flowchart to illustrate my thought process:




Of  Salesman

a song about a salesman

Bonus Song Nugget #2

This song is an original song inspired by a book written for The Bushwick Book Club Seattle

I already mentioned this nugget but it’s an important one so I thought I would bring it up again.

Here is my performance from the show where I go into greater detail about Bonus Song Nugget #1

Bonus Song Nugget #3

The song uses multiple time signatures and a tempo change

I used not one, not two, but three different time signatures in this song. It is quite a departure from my typical songs that use only one time signature throughout.

Since the song is Rush-inspired I wanted to try to make it unnecessarily complicated, hence the three different time signatures.

It took me fucking forever to figure out what time signatures I used. It was the hardest part of making this song.  A better musician could have no doubt figured it out with little thought. But not me, I am a slow-ass mother fucker.

The chorus / intro part is in 5. The verse is in 4 with a couple measures of 3 in there. And the pre-chorus part is in 3.  The chorus is a slower tempo than the verses. Then again, I could be wrong about all this too. Never forget that I am an idiot.

Bonus Song Nugget #4

Wacky guitar solo fun

My favorite part of the song is the guitar solo. It comes in after the first chorus. Don’t laugh but I was trying to sound like Alex Lifeson and that’s what came out of me.

Of Salesman
by Mike Votava

I‘m going door to door with predictors in my briefcase

You can’t resist my charm
it goes up all the way to eleven

Never mind all of the warnings
all that you’ve heard is a lie
brains are not meant to be broken

a hundred percent of the time
I guarantee that you’ll be fine
of salesman

you got the green light
wait one second
then press the button

Choice, an illusion
it’s predetermined
that you’ll buy one from me

None of your decisions matter
you think that they do but they don’t
maybe I’ll get a promotion

Millions and millions have sold
It’s the easiest job in the world
of salesman