Taking a small cue from the current season of Halloween, I’d like to introduce my latest tune. I’m often on the side of not providing deep deconstruction of creative pieces but as I’m only going to skirt around the broader themes and add some rough background and some treats.
Before I start wittering on, this is the meat and bones of the post. A new song, a long song, and one I’m quite pleased with for its continuity and its formation.
In a quick answer to the opening question, no, I don’t. I’m sure there are folk who would intentionally mystify their activities to gain favour, power and money but I doubt they are truly dangerous or possessed of otherworldly powers. Of a more fatal type historically have been those ‘gifted’ with a skill to spot a Witch and claiming of a divine right to persecute and punish any that slip outside of their sphere of control. A nasty business from both sides and sadly perpetuated today across many communities. Fear in the unknown is a powerful persuader.
The mythology of witchery is pan-continental and with extensive history. Folk stories exist from ancient Greece, China and across Europe. Africa and its vast diaspora embrace it and continue to use its power throughout Africa and the West Indies. It’s endlessly occupying in the darker sides of life and bleeds out into fiction of all types. From schlock pulp, comic books, magical realism and beyond we love witchery in all its forms.
Since I was a 11-12 year old staying up with my Dad to watch Hammer movies I’ve always loved the horror genre. I’m less inclined to watch some of the contemporary gorefests that arise. The sense of mystery and the unseen is far more powerful. Along with the ‘Wicker Man’, ‘The Devil Rides Out’ the classic Dracula/Mummy/Werewolf movies I’ve had a long appreciation for ‘The Night of The Beast/Demon’. As it wasn’t readily available I bought an import VHS copy about 10 years ago. More recently I found an import DVD copy.
Now it’s even on You Tube?
Its a brilliant cross over UK/USA production made in 1957. Lots more about it here. It’s interesting to me in that it proposes the relationship between belief in outcomes and how belief can lead outcomes. The original story was written by M.R. James, an historian and academic who wrote several ghost stories. Apparently a new film version of this particular story has been proposed.
My song uses as its lead in an exchange between the two main characters of film – Dr. John Holden, the American rational psychologist and Dr. Julian Karswell, the professorial academic with a leaning towards the dark side. A far more well known use of text from this film is found in Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’….Its in the Trees! Its coming!…
For your further enlightenment, this is the film in question. Its a wonderful thing.
Sonically the tune progresses in a simple linear way – Introduction>Consolidation>Expansion>Proclamation>Disintegration. Most of this achieved through layers of rhythm and increasing distortion, I did want to include something nailed to reality and was inclined to find a real Witch.
Like the fictional Carswell in the movie, Aleister Crowley was an historian & academic. He was a great self promoter and was variously known as the ‘The Great Beast’ and the most evil man in England. In more recent times he has been further mythologised by references from Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan and any other Satanic referencing Rock/Metal band.
Many years ago I borrowed ‘Magik in Theory & Practise’ from my local library with one or two strange looks. Its a lengthy and mainly unreadable book that serves in many ways as a diary of Crowley’s onianism and its outcomes. Crowley travelled widely and assisted many archeological expeditions in the mediterranean, south America and China and was undoubtably committed to research and comparative cultures. He was worldly and well informed as well as being somewhat deviant in other areas. Its proposed that during the early years of the Second World War he worked with MI5, along with Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl & Dennis Wheatly producing mystified disinformation for Nazi opponents – it was even suggested that he came up with the popularised ‘V’ for Victory sign.
In the song , during the middle section I’ve used a recording of Crowley intoning a ‘prayer’ about America. One of the main edifices of Witchery is presentation, intonation…. ‘giving it some scary’. Crowley achieves this better than most. There’s a touch of the William Burroughs about it.
This is the recording I used for the song.
The song use a number of processes and apps. Mainly produced using Garageband with added Rev loops. The main guitar was my Eros Les Paul copy (£45 in 1985, nice pots) recorded in Amplitude. I guess I had some God Speed You Black Emperor In mind, or maybe Swans. I’m consistently surprised these things turn out without being completely discordant.
I’m working on that though.
The Rain in Space
It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to sit down and indulge a little self promotion. In that time I’ve managed to finish two new songs. Both are in some way the result of finding new apps and web resources. So what follows is a brief explanation of the content and the process.
Dub From Another Planet.
This comes two new discoveries. The first is an iPad application called ‘Launchpad’ from Novation. The Company produce midi keyboards and pads to connect with your device (although I just used the standalone app). The app gives you a number of ‘genre’ styles (Drum & Bass, Hip-Hop, Trance etc) from which the one I’m most familiar with is ‘Reggae & Dub’. I have history with the music of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell and artist like Eek’A’Mouse, MackaB & Ini Kamoze. The app use a grid format with columns of tracks and within that numerous loops and effects which you can play live and record into the app.
Around the same time I started playing with that NASA made available some free to use sounds that have been recorded from electron telescopes and other sources. These include the sounds of Quasars and galaxies. They are quite fascinating and, like looking into the embers of a fire, its easy to find patterns in the chaotic static. The whops and squeaks are all in this case of extraterrestrial origin. Its incredibly fascinating stuff.
You can find more of those here: https://soundcloud.com/nasa
I’ve used sounds from NASA, the dub track and a fair amount of processing through Audacity & Garage Band. And this is the result.
Whilst I’m a little less ‘down’ with some of the other genres in Launchpad the flexibility of timing and adding different loops makes this an endlessly entertaining and creative tool. Whilst I’m more likely to investigate ‘Trance’ my son seems to think ‘Dubstep’ is the way to go.
Shortly Before The Flood
The second song which came to fruition really quite quickly is a mass of rhythm & percussion loops. The main loop that acts as the foundation is a reverse of copied/constructed digital version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’. Its running a little faster and doesn’t include any of the lovely fills that a real drummer would use, and its backwards…. The other loops are all from GarageBand and also includes some ‘Rev’ freebies (I think i would enjoy Rev but its a bit rich for me).
The theme of course derives from the base loop but as this sequence as been in many ways informed by our Norfolk adventure earlier in the year I took into mind the sound of rain on a caravan roof. There’s nothing like being in a caravan in a serious storm. The rain fall is amplified and the only thing keeping you from lightening shock is a couple of rubber tyres.
The dripping rain sounds (like a leaking roof resolved by kitchen pots & pans) are from sampled and processed guitar noises. The electrical storm at end is feedback and stretched chords.
It sounds exactly like this and I’m still quite taken with it.
My feature image for this song is a Norfolk picture with a section of a Gustave Dore illustration for Noah’s Ark. Always had a fondness for a good engraving.
I was uncertain of the title for a while but it is what it is. Its a little close to ‘Here Comes The Flood’ and any other number of deluge (love that word) related tunes. I’m happy with it whatever the weather.
The one thing I’d like to add to this the on-line mastering application Landr. I’ve used a few device to try and balance & equalise tracks but as the input is often variable it’s been problematic to avoid those sonic shocks when sequential tunes leap around in volume. Landr seems to solve this and the (free) MP3 out put is really good. For a monthly fee they offer WAV files. In my view I think they should run accounts and charge per track. Their monthly fee for four WAV files is fair but you would need to be consistent to need this. And I’m anything but consistent.
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Tagged as Art Music, Deluge, Drum Music, Dub, Garage Band, Gustave Dore', Landr, Launch Pad, Led Zeppelin, NASA, Novation, Rev