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You Can't Get There from Here, Part 3: Weather

August 10, 2015

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One of the interesting things about You Can't Get There From Here process is the fact that we are all such different composers. It means that others can take one's ideas in unexpected directions. For example, the fragment that Sonia sent me, which I spoke about in my last post then went onto John and after that to Oliver. Since passing through both John and Oliver it has taken on a much more dramatic vibe than I (or even Sonia originally) had given. What was a dark, and slightly more brooding fragment has gained losts of high frequency and dramatic gestures.

And this is the thing that's interesting: when I'm writing the character or feel tends to solidify fairly early on. I usually know how I want something to feel in terms of its general, then it's just a case of figuring out how to do that. So the idea of rewriting something with an entirely different feel or character is not something that I ever really think about doing, since it's precisely a particualr feel that I'm focused on. So it's interesting to hear pther composers reimagine in completely different ways that wouldn't have occurred to me.

Stage 3: Drew's Fragment from Francis

One of the challenges of the project is finding the right way in to someone else's work. Sometimes you receive something that you don't necessarily connect with straight away. We are, as I've said, very different composers with different interests and focuses, and so sometimes one's own normal or "standard" ways of dealing with musical material leave you short in the face of material that's very different from what you normally write.

The fragment I received from Francis worked from Drew's original idea posed a real challenge for me, and I was a bit stumped for quite a few days. As I understand it, Drew had worked out a series of harmonies (possibly algorithmically) and some cells of ideas, and then passed it onto Francis, who had used the bits he found interesting and started to fashion something. When I got it, it was a quartet (no accordion yet) with a medium slow 3/4 chromatic melody where the other instruments gradually entered. I didn't connect with the material straight away, and so I was left thinking 'what can I do with this?'. There was just something about the particular combination of that tempo with the melody and harmony that left me a bit stumped.

With very little time left before it had to be passed on, and still nothing done, I decided I needed to approach it in a slightly more drastic way. I figured I had to do something to the music that would allow me a way in - to strain or weaken some aspect of it before I could start building.

So I took the audio file of the music and time-stretched it to 10 times it's original length. At that tempo with such huge long durations, most of the melodic material starts to break down, leaving long held tones moving at an almost glacial pace. That gave me my way in. I started transcibing this, changing things along the way as I saw fit, and adding in new material.

Having effectively eroded the melody and left huge spaces, it did need something else texturally. I didn't want to write new melodic material over it, but rather do something else. I found myself thinking about weather and so started searching around to find some weather radio broadcasts, finally setlling on a hazardous weather channel that sounded really sonically interesting and I found really compelling.

The pacing was probably a bit off - it goes through the material really quickly, but I didn't take too much time over that, since I figured the next person might change everything anyway.

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