Years ago I came up with an idea to make a large piece of music based on the Iliad. I have a very unique interpretation of that great work... Anyway, after playing with the idea for a while I finally sat down and wrote a series of poems for a song cycle. I decided to try some songs as practice, ie,the few "art songs" I posted several years ago were really just practice for the main event.
Only the main event never happened - I never felt I was good enough to write what I heard in my head.
Well, that was then. Now I am writing in a more pop/rock style so I feel that I may not be perfect but it's good enough for rock and roll.
At the beginning of the Iliad Agamemnon does the ultimate political smack-down of the upstart Achilles by taking Brisies, a women Achilles took while raping, pillaging and plundering a city allied with Troy but who he later fell in love with. This song is sung by Achilles (as the whole cycle is) right after Brisies is led away.
(BTW - This uses instruments from JABB and GPO as well as the Steinway. There is one other soft synth (a virtual modular Moog) my voice and my parrot (listen for her in the background during the 5/4 section))
Last edited by trentpmcd; 04-16-2012 at 07:56 PM.
Reason: add new mix 4/15/12 & 4/16/12
I remember a post of yours from awhile back, with music which was unusual and challenging, and I think we didn't quite know how to respond.
For me, that's the case here too. I listened to "Brisies" two days ago when you posted it, and felt I wanted to wait a bit before letting you know I'd listened.
This is so ambitious, not only your over all concept of writing a large piece inspired by "The Iliad," but also this specific song at hand. It's complex, and has so much going on. It's all done with a truly unique sensibility - It's one of a kind, and one would be hard pressed to think of points of reference to it.
Some of the greatest song compositions come from true individualists. This work of yours is monumentally Yours. It's at times perplexing, other times impressive with its musical surprises, and maybe one could say there's even an iconoclastic defiance in the way the music tentatively suggests existing conventions, but then immediately goes where no writer has gone before!
In other words - I still really don't know what to think of it. It is what it is. And as I said above, I find it unique, and I admire that.
There's a transition point that happens a couple of times, where a majorly dissonant chord pushes against the melody line. I found that moment so dissonant as to sound like an error. I don't know - maybe if the thickness of that contrasting chord was thinned out, and a bit of voice leading would make the dissonance be less jarring without losing its suggestion of conflict.
I do find myself wishing the production could be punchier. You're talking about writing in a pop-rock mode, but this rarely sounds like that to me. You have drums, but perhaps if they were more dominant, and if a strong, simplified bass line was equally as prominent, I think then the concept of alternative rock would be more realized.
In any case - it's an amazingly complex project you've set out on. More power to you!
Hi Randy! Thanks for listening and for your comments.
A few years ago I read a book by Gary Larson where he tried to describe how the Far Side came about and basic details about it. At one place he stated that it wasn’t that he was against “normal” cartoons, it was just that he couldn’t make them – if he tried to write Garfield it would only be a day before Ody dug up a human skull and by the end of the first week it would be the Far Side under the name “Garfield”. It’s kind of funny because I thought this was the most conventional thing I’ve posted in a while…
Actually, I’m having a hard time writing a reply because I don’t want to come off sounding defensive or like I am trying to discount your feedback and advice. As I said in an earlier thread, I am just starting off on a new tangent and am learning as I am going. I know I am and will continue to make mistakes along the way.
Of the problems I can see the first is my voice. I think it is slowly coming around and I will most likely rerecord anything that I decide to put out for the larger public. Drums are another problem – I just can’t get the parts how I hear them in my head. I’ve tried using templates but they always sound so foreign and out of place that I can’t even imagine trying to edit them to fit. Slowly I think I will get to a point where I can either do good enough or hire somebody to play for me.
The big thing is mixing and production. I’ve been recording for more years than I care to admit but I’ve always put writing and playing ahead of engineering. That has been my steepest learning curve and I know I’m still beginning. Looking at your point of making the drums and bass more prominent – I tried lifting bass and drums up a little higher in the mix but then it changed what I was trying to get across in this song – it reminded me of that monstrosity from the 70s called “Switched on Classics” where they put rock, pop and disco beats to classical music – flay me alive before you force me to listen to that again…. It is possible that someone with real mixing talent could pull it off to create a more rock sound while keeping the meaning I’m trying to achieve intact.
One of the things I want to achieve is this: imagine walking down the road on a beautiful sunny day when suddenly you are falling into a deep abyss. A feeling of disorientation. Maybe the texture is a bit thick during those disorienting turns. Maybe something to experiment with…
I think one thing is that this music isn’t really in any given genre. I call it a little more rock/pop because it is no linger “classical”, though I had someone call this an “art song”. A typical rock/pop song gets its meaning from words and uses the music mostly as a general feeling while I want the music to tell the story and use the words to back it up – I want you to come away with same idea if I used “Shibity bop a wang tang a loola” instead of “You put a flower in your hair”
Anyway, I hope you can make sense of these ramblings. Thanks for your comments: I really do appreciate them.
Hi Randy - I played with the mix a little and added a new, slightly tweaked version. The piano, electric piano and electric organ are lowered a little while the bass and drums are brought up. A few other small changes. I'll continue to play around with the mix and maybe even rerecord some of the vocals.
Hi, Trent - I think it's great you're still working on the mix, and if any feedback I offered was helpful, well, fine.
And yes, this sounds better to me.
It's a long standing tradition, the "singing songwriter" concept, where the writer does his own vocal demos. I always look forward to hearing other people sing my songs, but the only practical thing to do initially is record vocals myself, despite not being a great singer. That's all fine, and you shouldn't get so tough on yourself about the results.
If you're wanting to spiff up your vocal tracks even more, you could try some things I do. Hardly a word goes by in my tracks that I don't do some editing on. Pitch correction tools, like Sonar's V-Vocal help tremendously towards fixing pitch and avoiding unintended sonic collisions. It also helps a lot to shift words and phrases along the timeline so they fall more precisely on the beat. The more iffy pitches and loose timing there is, the less clear things become - the song itself isn't being supported as well as it can be.
When you've doubled your vocal in this recording, you can hear the disparity in the timing. To shift the vocal clips in conjunction with each other can make the results tighter and less distracting.
Here, I ran a little experiment this morning. I have a 27 second clip from your MP3 of one of the chorus sections. I added compression, because that was one of the first things I noticed when listening to your new mix - that it could benefit from a taming of the dynamics through the use of compression.
The take is fairly bass heavy also, so I thinned out the lower frequencies a bit.
Both mixes are really dry. I like things to be relatively dry, but a greater sense of room ambience really helps add a smoother, more natural sound. So I added a bit of a medium sized room to it.
In my earlier post, I referred to a dissonant transition that is so thick and dissonant that it could be taken as a mistake. That section is in this clip - from 15 seconds in to 19 seconds. The vocals are flat there, which confuses the sound, but the main thing is that the chord is so thick and muddy, I'm also not sure if the melody note is in the chord - and it would help if it was. I understand this is a dramatic moment, needing to sound conflicted and sad. But I think you should try a much simpler minor chord. I think the music would flow better and still make for the mood shift you're wanting.
As you said, what you're doing here isn't genre specific, and that's fine. To think of a possible comparison, I think maybe you're a bit in the Frank Zappa area - and that would be great. I feel the main thing this would benefit from is a much tighter performance throughout, a simplification of the arrangement performed more accurately. There are quite a few ?? moments, like when the bass is sometimes doing something that doesn't seem supportive of the rest.
And so on - I really can't speak much to the music itself, since it's so extremely individualistic - it's your baby. I'm talking here mostly about how what you've written could come across more strongly with a cleaner, more controlled production - With the drums still Much higher than you have them, with a bit of reverb, and with the timing tightened up wherever it can be.