So I have been reworking Leaping the Threshold by placing the trumpet voice more forward in the mix and the female voice more distant. At this moment I am listening to both and trying to decide which supports my concept better. The female voice in the forefront sounds more triumphant to my ear. When the voice is in the background with the trumpet forward, it sounds a bit mournful, like we didn’t quite make it. This makes the decision clear: voice forward!
Leaping the Threshold uses all stems from the original tune and resamples them in relation to each other. I am working on a second piece called The Dream which would precede Leaping the Threshold. This piece is built around a synth line played in D Dorian. I love the Dorian mode. It is so full of longing. Whenever I hear it, my heart feels “yearny” (like in Sentimental Journey.) Perhaps it is a bit sentimental, too. Whatever, it stirs up heart feelings which I find uplifting and healing. The Dorian mode works with the stems from the original tune which I believe is in D Major. If you go to the piano, and play a D scale -DEF#GABC#D- then a D Dorian – DEFGABCD- you can hear that the two modulate together in a pleasing way. The feeling flows very naturally from the D Major to the Dorian in a melancholy way, almost like a shoulder shrug.
So the Dorian synth line driftily loops within a framework of the male choir stem and the gritty bass stem from the original tune. The gritty bass stem has some excellent whispy, skittish artifacts that scurry back and forth percussively in the upper part of the sonic frame while the bass growls low. It is soo cool, I love how it uses the sonic space. The male choir serves as an enhancer of the synth line, swelling in some places and receding in others. The bells approach lightly throughout the first section and then begin to toll. The choir fades and the bass line comes in at a slightly faster tempo driving the second movement. The last movement adds a low bass ostinato and another slight uptick in tempo. The last movement has a sense of adrenalin rush to it.
I was thrilled to discover that I can tweak the tempo of sections of the tune once I have recorded it in Ableton. I can see the starting tempo down to the hundredth of a Beat Per Minute (BPM), and I can raise the tempo as much or as little as I want. I like to apply the PHI – Golden Mean as a template when I have a relational movement to make when I am sculpting the sound. I don’t know if it matters, but this measurement is accessible and usually produces the effect I am listening for. The accelerations are barely noticeable, but give a feeling of the excitment and fear as one takes a leap of faith.
The bass rumblings under the third part of The Dream are low piano/strings that are very full and throaty. I tried several different rhythmic emphases for the piano/strings ostinato – one slower more methodical clip sounded a bit too much like “Rite of Spring” -Jaws Edition. The one you hear was played slower, then double-timed and with a beat repeat thrown in. While it has a pulse feeling, it is not a driving downbeat. I hear the piano/strings as a racing heartbeat underlying the movement patterns of the bass, synth and percussion. The piano/strings are moving in a triplet feel under the syncopated percussion artifacts in the bass with the synth floating along side. Again I am feeling the influence of “In C” as I shape a pulse driven piece where the individual voices cascade over each other.
This is why I feel that what I am doing is painting with sound. If a musician or sound engineer listens to this piece, while I think they could find elements to appreciate, they would likely find it unsatisfying. And they would be right; what I am creating probably doesn’t fit their aesthetic template. I listen with big ears, listen deeply, and engage with the interplay of feeling and tension. This interplay is not always a tight 4/4 or an expected progression. This interplay doesn’t always have a hook. I hear the interplay as conversational, even monologic at times. Then there are all the dynamics and direction that carry the piece forward: the internal narrative based an a progression of feeling. Everything has that in it. Everything. I believe that everything is made of molecules and stories.
So the internal narrative of Destiny’s Door-The Dream-Leaping the Threshold begins in a haze and unfolds like a dawning, and when the bell tolls it is time to roll. Excitement and adrenalin fuel the last segment until a swelling choir of voices gives birth to the song of wide open. Give a listen:
The contest rules limit the length of an entry to 90 to 120 seconds. The whole DD-TD-LT piece is 130 seconds. Oh, well, to be honest I am not sure if the move from D Dorian to DMaj works very well. I liked the sound of DMaj to D Dorian, but the reverse sounds a bit forced.
So I entered the two sections as seperate entries.
I learned a lot from this process and I plan to keep the stems and play around with them. I have not found a good tutorial or a good method for warping non-percussive melodic stems like strings, voice, flutes( -oh, that reminds me-I incorrectly identified one of the stems as flutes but it is very high woodwinds) in Ableton. One tutorial told me to turn off the auto-warp preference. So I did that. As I work with the stems getting them lined up with the 1 and moving beat points in sync, I find the clip BPM keeps changing. And sometimes I pull the audio all out of whack and it gets distorted. This makes the whole warping process seem like a lot of guess work. I am exposing the depth of my ignorance here. Oh, well.
The first public attunement of “In C” will be happening very soon. So please, stay tuned!