Hai Steemians XD, it has been a while since I have made a "sit-down" post... you know something that takes time write and read. Well, there have been a lot of good reasons, mostly due to the fact that I am working on some projects to post here on Steem. If you have been following, I have talked a little about a project I did for some cool people out in San Diego, CA. We have finally done all the doings with this project and I can finally go into detail about it from top to bottom. First thing you should know about me is that I don't make art projects for the sake of making them. I don't simply sit down and finish something when I start it. I like to pontificate more than actually work to be honest. Some of my biggest inspirations have said "That project needed more time in the shower." That is a really important aspect of my philosophy. What they mean is they wanted to spend more time thinking deeply about the project, away from the project. Showers are great places to find a eureka moment, I have read a lot of interesting theories as to why, but overall, it's just a great place to think. This project was the most intense I pushed this philosophy in the shortest amount of time.
(Image of @illpoetic)
From The Top
This whole journey started with a phone call from @illpoetic, as always since he literally lives on the other side of the nation from me. Ill Po told me how he met this guy Ben Guerrette and that his team Luminul Creative was working on some LED programing project including modern dance with Bella Lux Ent. So, this happens to us on a regular basis, we hardly ever know who to take seriously though. People love to talk about the things they hope to do, but never really execute. So we both talked about how cool it would be to be a part of a multi-media project but were reluctant to get excited about anything. Some time passed and Ill Po mentioned that Ben and his team were very serious and they had met. What they wanted from us was music for an LED art installation that will include modern dance. Now, modern dance is exactly where I hope my career will land. I want to work in the fine arts making music for dance pieces. So this sounded like a lot of fun and a chance to level into some art I really want to be in. Ill Po told me about the kind of music they were looking for which was more in line with the kind of music I make/listen to. This is what separates a lot of people, selflessness, this is why Ill Po and I have worked seamlessly for close to 8 years. We recognize who is better to take the lead on a project and set everything up for them to do what they do well. This time Ill Po felt I was best to lead this project and when he showed me their playlist of music they are looking for, he was right. They wanted to hit the Burial, Bonobo and other similar artists target. Which is the direction my band Kindred Bay has been going. So we did that teamwork-hands-in-inspiring-chant thing and got to work.
Everyone is inspired by something
It just so happened I was doing some research on some rare pockets of EDM and how they came to be. The history of Speed Garage was really interesting me and I was thinking about how I can take these 4x4 focused music styles into the realm of academic music. I felt like this was the best place to start and a great project to attempt this goal. When I approach pieces with music theory in mind I like to set some boundaries or goals. This is a fun way to challenge myself and find new avenues of thinking about what I am working on along the way. After all, enjoying a project is always in the journey not the destination right? For this project I was aiming to do a few things, tell the story of Speed Garage's transformation from House Music to Speed Garage to the many genre's it has inspired. All while the listener might experience this history lesson on a bus or train leaving a rave. I know, I like to keep things simple lol. In terms of boundaries I wanted to write everything in the Db Dorian Scale as this scale has this sort of calming forlorn feeling that Speed Garage gives me. I wanted to use Syncopation and Harmonic Rhythm while changing time signatures and tempo to express these evolutions in genre. That is how I felt I could work outside of the normal 4x4 pattern common in both House Music and Speed Garage. Now, it is important to note that, it is rare that I use a 4x4 beat pattern. By this I mean 4/4 time signature using 4 kicks to carry the rhythm. Not that I don't love music made with this approach, but if you have heard my music you might get why it isn't something I do that much. However I did know that I wanted to use this at some point in the song. My goal was to build anticipation leading up to an exciting 4x4 drop. But only feature it for an important period.
When Ben and I had our first phone conversation I realized that we were very much alike. We talked a lot about artists like Bonobo, Burial, Aphex Twin, and how Rave Culture affected our past and still affects out present. I told him what I wanted to do in terms of telling a story with this music and he told me what the art project is overall. I shared him this documentary about Burial and that is when we knew we were about to make something crazy. As excited as I was about the challenges I knew problems were on the horizon. The final challenge I placed in my goals was to tell a 5 act story. So I needed to approach each portion of my writing much differently than my normal 3 act writing. They needed 10-15 mins of music and I didn't want to change musical pieces. I wanted the listener to almost forget they were hearing the same piece 10 mins in. Until they heard the core melody pierce through later portions of the piece. This is also why I keep referring this project as a piece rather than a song.
A Little Help From My Friends
So, once I had a solid formula and list of goals for this project, it was time to perform the actual music. I spent about a week and a half staying focused on writing, performing and sound designing synths and drums. It took my focus from the time I woke up and kept me busy in my sleep. My goal was to structure the first half of the piece based on tools common in EDM, drum machines, synths, etc. However, I wanted some layers that would have been clever solutions an early, analog based artist would have tried. So, I used my own mouth to emphasize the rimshot I was using. Which is not uncommon for me, I tend to use some form of beatboxing in all my songs and almost nobody notices haha. I needed a high-end sound that served as a swinging rhythm, something like a tambourine, but more precise. I dropped my chopstick against my bong and it was exactly the sound I was looking for. So, I set my mic up and recorded myself playing my bong with some chopsticks. I am sure you have found yourself doing similar things XD.
Typically when producers want that Old-School Vibe they go straight to vinyl crackle. I found myself wondering down this rabbit-hole. But while digging through my crazy stock-pile of vinyl crackle I have recorded over the years something didn't feel right. If I was taking this much time to do things differently I felt like I could get "vinyl crackle" without using actual vinyl crackle. I noticed it was raining outside and I recalled the sound of rain tapping an umbrella. I figured I could get the feel I wanted by using this sound. So I grabbed some of my film gear and did a quick set up out of my dining room window. I couldn't have been happier with the results, I was able to get a bit of a "sound-design-double-entendre." What this helped do was punch on that forlorn feel I wanted while giving things a rustic vibe.
While going over some notes with Ill Po, he was riding the San Diego Trolley. I heard some of the stop announcements over the phone and realized they would be perfect to get that bus ride layer I was looking for. This aspect was a lot harder to achieve than you might think. And is arguably, not important, to most listeners. But, for me, I tended to think a lot about the history of EDM on the way home from raves. I would close my eyes and think about all the people it took to make all this history come together. It excited me to know that there was all this going on in my head while most people were merely beginning their day. So Ill Po brought a field recorder on a ride with him and sent me the entire recording. What I liked was that he go more than simply the trolley announcements. He got the sound of the engine revving up, people talking, even a seriously deep conversation about race conflict that 2 strangers were having. I usually use white noise to motivate build ups and sort of "rev-up" the intensity of a song. In this case I was able to use the trolley engines to capture this feel. This kept the piece from becoming too "cliché".
Right around Act 5 I hit that wall that always bugs me with EDM music, repetition. I knew I needed more time to properly finish the story we were trying to tell. This was about the time we needed to touch on other genre's Speed Garage inspired. This sort of includes, Dubstep, certain pockets of Ambient, and so much more even tipping into Indie Rock. I didn't have a lot more time to get the project to Ill Po for mixing and mastering, but I figured I would hit up my band members Bobby Rangel (Drummer) and Brien Egan (Singing Bowls, Horns). If they had the time we would record with them and move our focus into a combination of these more abstract genre's. I will have to make a whole post breaking down my process of writing music with the band. Luckily we hit our targets with ease. Everyone showed up to there recording sessions with excitement towards the project goals. Ill Po added a guitarist, Nick Costa, to the mix. We all haven't met him yet but that was definitely the cherry on the top of the combination of electronic music and live instrumentation. Originally the guitar recordings we're for a hip hop song Ill Po was working on. This was a rare case where we sampled a hip hop song for another genre.
Every Bar Raised Is A New Hurdle To Jump
It's true, every bar raised is a new hurdle to jump, this is where you are proven as a professional or an amateur. This project was riddled with these unforeseen issues. One of the biggest was discovered after I had already written all the music. I get an email from Ben asking why he can't easily place his LED triggers into Soundtouch. His next question dropping like a nuclear bomb "Was this written in 4/4?" It turns out that the program he was using really only works in a 4/4 pattern. He asked me "Can you make it all 4/4?" This chain of emails was painful for me to say the least. Once you have dug your heels this deep and made it this far on a piece there is pretty much no going back. So, no, I could not undo this problem, and I wanted to lol. I wanted to make sure everything went smoothly so we could hit our deadline. If you are reading this deep into this post I suggest you mention all this stuff to clients in the beginning of the project, if this is your job. Well, the beautiful thing about this is that Ill Po, Ben and myself are extremely good problem solvers. I suggested that I print out each section that has a time signature change or a tempo change. So he could treat each act like it's own project. Then Ben mentioned he can manually place things so they hit on time in the 3/4 sections. This made mixing and mastering a bit of a struggle but nothing Ill Po and I couldn't handle. Below is an image of how difficult Ben's job was. Without being climatic, I will assure you that he crushed it, he hit notes on times I didn't think possible. What he had to do was take a screenshot of the waveform, add it to his timeline and look at the spikes for reference points. Not easy I know.
Leading up to the event this was centered around I was trying to gather some money up to be in San Diego when they premiered the installation. But it was not looking good for me. When you are a family man, own a house and have pets you find money leaving in ways you didn't anticipate. I had all but accepted my fate and figured I would not get to see the premiere. Until Ill Po sent me a message... "Have you checked your email...… they want to bring you to SD for the premiere." I rushed to my email and saw that he was serious, they team wanted to bring me out and would pay for my flight. I was humbled and so happy to hear that. I will have to detail my trip in another post because this one is getting a little ridiculous in size lol. But I was so very excited to spend time with my new friends and see my best friends family. And we did it big while I was there.
To sum up this whole experience I can say that I finally feel like I am making music the way I had always hoped I would. It takes a lot of sacrifice to get to a level like this and most of the time I felt as though I could never reach these heights. We still have so much to accomplish before we can even say we have made a real impact. I can't wait to see where we go next with the Luminul team. We plan on having some video of how all this came together but we are still working on that. I want to thank Ben, Kyle, Ill Poetic, and Bella Lux Ent. for all of your hard work and including me in this amazing project. I'd love to spend more time in SD working with you guys, I foresee a life-long friendship between all of us. I wanted to touch on the modern-dance section of this piece more but there isn't a lot to say, dance is better seen than explained. So you will have to wait for some visuals for that. But it was my #1 favorite part about the project.
Attached we have included the song via Definition Music. Check it out and tell me what you think. I talked a lot about the 5 act approach to this piece. So I added a screenshot of the project file and where each act breaks. Act 1-4 are all single movement acts. While Act 5 is a 3 movement section. Below the image I tell the story and what each act represents.
The Tetralume Story | In 5 Acts
Prologue - Image you are a raver leaving a party, the sun is rising and it is the early 2000's. You are riding home thinking about all the great EDM sub-genre's that have come together to give you an amazing experience. You begin around the post-house era while commuters go about beginning their day. They enhance your imagination as their walla becomes a sound design element. The engine seems rev up and down in tandem with the music as your mind falls deeper into the rabbit hole of thought.
Act 1 - Tells the story of House Music's popularity in the UK, a little in it's post peak. The excitement isn't over when a party lets out and small bars are buzzing with a new, fast paced dance music tastemakers are calling Speed Garage. This section is in 120 bpm, roughly the average speed of house music. We use a 3/4 time signature to represent change within a trend. Yet, some of our high rhythms are be being performed on a 4/4 time signature, to foreshadow a new normal on the horizon of change.
Act 2 - The glory of Speed Garage takes over with rolling melodies and precise snares that snap you into movement. You are now made aware that a new generation is now taking over the community and anything seems possible. You imagine the genre in it's earliest stages, on it's smallest stages, tucked away in places most people dare not venture. This section switches to a 135bmp to honor the average speed of Speed Garage along with the standard 4/4 time signature.
Act 3 - As Speed Garage begins taking root we witness a massive transformation and experimentation stage. People from all directions are trying new things. New faces appear on flyers and on main stages of places like Ministry Of Sound and other major venues. We shift back into a 3/4 time signature but remain at a 135bmp. This signifies change, experimentation, excitement, and the inevitable fraying of a brand new genre.
Act 4 - Finally, Speed Garage's popularity has taken root and it's stability is cemented in the history of EDM. Our soundscape is more structured, focused, and containing all the most important elements to make people dance. DJ's, producers, and record makers across the world are joining the craze. Mainstream music has elements of it's inspirations riddled through it's cracks and all over some of it's surface. We return to the standard 4/4 time signature staying at 135bpm. We wanted to signify that moment when experimentation finds a genre's strengths and takes of in ways that people can relate to.
Act 5 | In 3 Movements - As they hype of Speed Garage begins to wind down and a new generation begins to emerge, our soundscape becomes slower, softer, but lush and full of new life. Through Movement 1 we are bathed in a wash of experimentation in a more forlorn motif. As if waving off an exciting era, looking forward to new beginnings. In Movement 2 we wonder down some notes of Dubstep, Trip Hop, Downtempo, and of course Ambient. Finally the 3rd movement takes the listener to a time when artists like Burial, Mounte Kimbie, King Krull, Portishead, Radiohead and many other artists who were inspired by EDM's humble beginnings and great heights. Our soundscape is sporadic, jazzy, and has evolved to make it's own decisions. Through act 5 we remain in a 4/4 time signature but drop to 70bpm, moving to 140bpm finalizing back to 135bmp, the true speed of Speed Garage. The goal was to represent many genres that spawned from this time in electronic music.
Epilogue - The listener has arrived to their stop. They feel rejuvenated, knowledge, and ready to bring on the future of Electronic Music.
Thanks for joining me on this documentary of sorts. This project means a lot to myself and the team involved, so be sure to let us know, comment, share, and listen to our music. We really appreciate you <3.
Want to hear @illpoetic tell his story about this experience? Well head over to his blog post.
The Tetralume Story | How Ill Poetic And Ason Intrigue Crafted Sound For Visuals (Ill Po Edition)
P.S. If you aren't in the MSP-Peace Abundance Liberty Discord server you are missing out. Head over there and make some friends. They are having a great time and supporting active members. Join us
Also check out the label I am on Definition Music