Friday, October 22, 2010

The Big Bang

Now now! I've been writing music all day, well trying. It's difficult. I want to write an album on the big bang, the beginning and fate of the universe, something like Albedo 0.39 by Vangellis crossed with the planets suite by Holst.

Now, I'll let you into a secret in that the majority of my music isn't written for a subject, at least not at first. Generally I'll play with sounds and melodies until it gets quite far. I'll often start with a rhythm. After a while it might sound or feel like something, at that point I'll nudge it towards that thing and title it as such.

The Train is a good example. It began with a jaunty rhythm a little like the pop song Steppin Out by Joe Jackson. It sounded like a train on tracks, so I added the chack-a-chack background and other parts.

At other times I've written melodies beforehand, such as the music for The Infinite Forest, but usually I'll pick tracks from the half complete sketches, then push them towards something to make them fit. As such, it takes a long time to write an album, several months of toying and slight changes. Much more like sculpture than the way I paint.

This time thought I've got no sketches, so I must begin from the start. It'll be a new experience then, and after the experimentation of Pi I wanted to include some more atonal parts to clash with the melodies which I tend to fill my music with. These options are proving daunting.

I've begun by listing the main stages of the big bang and must now try to summon feelings for each event. This isn't that easy because it's all so mathematical and mechanical. Could Holst have written music about the science of the planets? No! He had to use the mythology because the passion and humanity was there. I will have to make this album metaphorical, or at least present my thoughts and feelings about the universe into it.

The coldest music there is is by Bach, and today I wrote the coldest organ fugue you could imagine! Incidentally I do not totally believe that his famous toccata and fugue in D-minor (BWV565) is by Bach... it's got passion and despite his genius, it is the one thing his music never has.

Anyway this has been day one and not much progress has been made but I have made some. I will keep trying. I'm not sure if my cold fugue will make it, but it is an ideal form for mathematics... the main problems being both the lack of passion, and that such things are often not beautiful (although Bach's concerto for two violins in very beautiful).

Tomorrow I will again attack Forces and Unification, the very start of the album which is about the part of the big bang where the fundamental forces of nature coalesce. I hope to represent this by having four different musical parts that overlay. I've been trying all day though without success. Music always takes a long time, partly due to technical matters (even Beethoven didn't have to cope with balancing tracks in a recording environment) but it is enjoyable and I feel strongly that I've not nearly shown what I'm capable of.

It's odd that in output terms I'm nearly on par with Jean-Michel Jarre. I do find that rather comforting. He's on tour at the moment (I'm following him on Facebook, which he updates daily, it's very interesting to see). I wonder if he would have been a better composer if he was less successful as a performer. He writes with flair but not brilliance.


Kathy said...

My head is spinning!! I'll have to read this a few more times, but I think I understand what you mean. Bach is one of my favorite composers - perhaps the greatest ever. But, when it comes to Romantic Period music I'm a big fan of Rachmaninoff and DeBussy. In any case ... I'll spend some time thinking about your post.

Andrew Williams said...

I think the Planet Suite works because it anthropomorphises the planets (by using some pre-existing models!). Perhaps by doing the same with the universe, you could generate the passion you are looking for. You might like to try merging universal development with the Seven Ages of Man (Shakespeare!) - the universe as the mewling infant, the schoolboy, the soldier and so on. And into second childhood - sans heat, sans light, sans everything...

Sharmon Davidson said...

What a great subject for writing music! I hope to hear some of it soon.

Mark Sheeky said...

Hi Kathy. Bach was indeed a master of music. The more I learn about music the harder it gets. I need to learn some ignorance, fast!

Yes Andrew, you're right as ever!

Thanks Sharmon. I hope to post some examples progress. This is the first time I've aired and thought about how music is written. Normally I just do it without thinking, but that has its limits...