This is the final piece slated for Brood XIV, and one of those unfinished pieces I alluded to earlier.
Compositionally, the sound of this piece moves out of the ambient of Harold Budd and into the minimalism of Philip Glass. The alternating major/minors, the repeating arpeggios - this is all stock Glass. I wasn't trying to create a Glassesque piece, but I was consciously aware of how similar it was sounding as the piece was developing. Even if I try to duplicate a style of composer totally, the end result still bears some personal stamp because it is filtered through my biases and limitations. So, I don't sweat these things. It may resemble Glass, but ultimately, it is my composition.
The basic piano arpeggio that outlined the chord progression was stomped out one morning before work, and then it sat there until two days ago. On Saturday, my wife and kids and myself were all at Whole Foods participating in a pumpkin painting event. The kids were busy in an art-trace, and I felt the empty house calling me, so my wife graciously allowed me to skip back home to record. I set up the mics, copied the project over, hit record and... my neighbor starts warming up his motorcycle for 15 minutes. I managed to record the pedal tones before my window of opportunity ended shortly thereafter. I wanted this on a separate track because I intended to roll off the high end quite a bit.
Saturday night, unencumbered by the necessity of open mics, I tracked the modular lines via French Connection. This time, the result sounded like a combo organ with severe vibrato. Harold Budd used some sort of combo organ before (I believe), so this justified itself in my head. However, it made me wish I had a Mellotron because the tracks suggested that mixed choir sound. Of course, I don't have a Mellotron. Now, if I wanted an actual choir, that is easy enough. I have tons of amazing choir samples, and choirs are something that I have some experience multi-tracking on my own. That isn't what I wanted. I wanted that signature Mellotron sound. Enough time has passed that the sound has gone from innovative to cliche to retro chick until finally settling into something legitimate in my mind. Wink, nudge, like Allan Holdsworth playing a gawdawful Kurzweil K250 sampled guitar via a guitar controller. Or, not.
However, I have a slight problem. I don't have these samples. I have other Mellotron samples, but for some reason I don't have this choir. How can that possibly be? I knew some kind soul on the internet must be offering free samples of this beast. THANKS! The individual sample files are named with their note, and creating the keymap was as simple as dragging the lot into MachFive. As a bit of trivia, this marks the first, (and last) appearance of MIDI on this collection of pieces.
On Sunday, I again took advantage of the swim lesson/nap time convergence. As if sensing my intent, my neighbor again fires up his bike again. After grinding my teeth for another 15 minutes, I managed to record the complementary arpeggios and the solo accents before my daughter woke up.
Even though piano recording was spread out over three short sessions, I still resisted the impulse to correct the sloppy playing. That isn't the idea here. The idea is to honor and embrace the first creative impulse. The basic arpeggio and chord progression is as I originally improvised it. All the tracks are first takes. There are a number of reasons for this, including simply trying to be productive given the limited time available, but more importantly, I feel 'perfect' music is commonplace. The more you edit out your personal hesitations and mistakes, the more generic the music becomes. After my wife and I got married, we flew to Malaysia to, sort of, get married again for her family. Part of this process involved an elaborate photo session where someone did my wife's hair and makeup. After the makeup was applied, my wife didn't really look like my wife anymore. She looked like a more generic, idealized version of my wife. The makeup moved her from a unique individual, to a stereotype. This didn't improve her appearance, it only made her less unique.
Miraflores Locks by Matthew G Davidson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at stretta.com.
More on this piece later, maybe tomorrow. Then, I'm going to package up the whole lot, upload it to jamendo and call it done. Note: the pre-release versions posted so far will still be available to listen to at SoundCloud, but I'm going to remove the download links. The 'final' album versions may have slightly altered mixes. For example, I'm going to remove the delay on the piano on 'What Never Was'