Friday, 11 September 2009

Alan MX: The Origin of the Howl

"When you close your eyes is it hell that you see?"
("Ghost" from Ginger Snaps Unleashed)

In The Dark Half by Stephen King, Thad Beaumont; an author, keeps a stock of two fully complete but unpublished manuscripts in a vault, so that in the event of writers block a publishing deadline can be met. It's a book I enjoyed to a point, but donated to a friend twenty pages before the end. I just didn't care anymore, I had suffered with it for a long time and my heart just wasn't in it. But the concept of a secret cache of material to be called upon in an emergency is really interesting.

I went through a lot of my old files on my main computer tonight. sifting through for fragments that weren't all THAT bad, and maybe weren't finished as a result of poor timekeeping or a more polished idea being born.

When I am working on a new piece I very rarely come up with it's title at the inception point. Its usually much later when the libretto is skeletoned that the title raises its head. As such, most of these files were given nonsense names. Messes of consonants; achieved by mashing the keyboard in a hurry, not fully formed enough to even earn an epithet. I'd mourn for these abortions, but as I learned tonight, some of them deserved better.

I'm resurrecting a few pieces that lacked vocals in their neoteny. I've found pieces of processed trumpet blown by my own small lips, and scars of untrained violin reverbed into significance. Splattering beats chopped and arranged salad style around thudding guitar. I'm quite pleasantly surprised by the songs my mind condemned.

One piece though, innocuously named "fleer" was particularly pregnant. I opened it and not knowing what it was pressed play. What I heard was my voice carrying a moan that I cannot even parody now, and of which I have no memory. Under all the layers of delay and reverb flooding the base vocal, there was still a haunting, not entirely friendly sound.

It reminded me of the video they find aboard the Event Horizon.

About a year ago, I was on some pretty heavy duty medications which affected my concentration and more notably my memory. My creative fires were also doused and it was, all in all, a mostly grey time. A smudge. I think this recording must have been done during that time. It would be indulgent to try to forensically pick apart it's archeology, but the Howl was so alien I feel I need to play detective.

I'm not going to interpolate it into any future music, because it's too stupid and emotional to be walking. But it gets me thinking about how we make music. The initial melody comes and after that we blend and chop and simmer harmonies and dissonances and rhythms to complement or destroy that original fragment. But where does that initial idea come from? Whether you pick it out on a piano or scream it into a dictaphone, that collection of notes has come from somewhere. Although it would be nice, it's probably not a message from another dimension, beamed into our heads and spat out in tongues not our own. There is a possibility that it comes from something which mathematics cannot claim, some primal urge to raise the tone and lower it. Perhaps the vibrations that sound causes in out bodies leads us to change frequencies or quicken pace. Some of my favourite musical moments are the ones where music SHOULD be but isn't, and that sudden silence leaves me panting for the continuation. (Kim Hiorthoy's Melke album has plenty of evidence of this) Perhaps the way to music is to shut off the sense of society we have earned. Give into the mammalian urges to grunt and roar and see what happens. Cut the cord. Cut the Chord. Songs can come after, but for that instance of conception it may be that we have to get really dirty and uncivilized. Like sex. To create a life, first you must degrade yourself and become victim to your own urge.

So picture me, scratching the ground with my hoof, snarling and being the monster disregarding all the civility that life has impressed upon me. barking into the microphone, bellowing my Wampum prayer and giving myself over to the self inside.

Which is fine until I close my eyes......

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