Sunday, October 11, 2009

Vision Seeking Sound:

This has been quite a wknd. Those who knew her (&, invariably, loved her) will remember it as our dear Sara's memorial. She had requested that I do it, so I did. It was deeply moving to hear those close to her share their memories.

Some of the YACB musicians knew Sara from past ventures, and a quartet of us played the first 5 pieces in YACB at the party afterwards. It sounded better than I expected - the arrangements and ideas are still in so much flux that I'm not sure they're ready for listeners. I changed the rhythm of one entirely about an hour before we performed it. But the sound came together for the event and it was ok, even digging in at moments.

After everyone headed home I headed back into my studio to finish up work on a song for The Battle of Dutton Hill, the second quarter of YACB. That song finally jelled, but there's still a bear of a piece to tackle. This particular section has been sonically challenging. Curiously, ideas for visual elements came fairly quickly, but lyrics and sounds not so much. I don't care for any of the music associated with the Civil War, and really, once I started thinking about it, I don't care for any music associated with any war whatsoever. I like the sound of the shawm (and have one!) - and know that shawms & their relatives have been used as military instruments, because they can be horrifically penetrating, but that's about all the lead I have at present.

What I need is music for the battle itself. It's tempting to ask the musicians to make the worst sounds they can manage for about 5 minutes and be done with it. But that is not a foregone solution, even if it winds up being the solution.

I wondered briefly about mutilating a quotation from Gustave Holst's "Mars, bringer of War" and using it for a theme - until I found out that everyone and their cousin has done just that. Jimmy Page supposedly quotes it in his Dazed and Confused solo. I never noticed it, but my eyes always glazed during that anyway. I thought maybe if the 5/4 beat of it was sped up to near heart failure rate it might have an interesting effect, but like a lot of such it just sounds forced.

So tonight I'm going to take a look at the Bhagavad Gita and listen to some of that chanted. Maybe that ancient war epic will provide me with a clue. I just hope that I won't have to reread the Illiad and War and Peace too.


William said...

I like the idea of the worst sounds.In context with civil war visuals, that could be quite unnerving. Would that be instrumental, or vocal sounds of pain and crying and whatever?

Dan Dutton said...

A combination of all those. With quieter human sounds amplified to match the level of bombs, cannons, guns, etc. I was thinking maybe the making of the sounds could be conducted somehow, so that the musicians could not reference them to beats, but have to prepare to produce them suddenly, as a response, like pulling a trigger at the right moment.

It leads to the idea of what can cause the quality of sounds to be worse, as an experience. As you know I worked with that in a comical mode for a number of years with The Slugs - that was pretty tricky, this is harder.

Dan Dutton said...

The only work that I know of that comes close to evoking some of the feeling I'm after is Diamantha Gala's "Plague Mass."