Backtrack: April (Tidings)

Backtrack is a series devoted to backtracking to tell short stories about songs I've written.

I have an Aunt in New York who has a piano (she has since moved). When I visit I always make time for the ivories — playing piano is one of my favorite things to do. (I loved it so much, I ended up buying a piano in 2012) This relatively straightforward piece started with some simple piano voicing and evolved into a couple of overdubs … some of the overdubs could have been done live by a good player I’m sure, but I haven’t quite gotten the hang of hand independency. (still haven't!)

It was April of 2007 - I have a somewhat vague recollection of it raining and being at night. I got a hold of some storm sounds to hammer that home, and whipped up a GarageBand session (my tool of choice at the time) complete with Apple Loop drums which I’ve never had an opportunity to replace. This is a very straightforward tune, but for me there’s always been something about this kind of downward motion that I find appealing. There’s a piano ostinato that is established and eventually mimicked by a synth, and that’s really about it!

This has since been released as one half of the track ‘April Tidings’ off my B-Side album 'Noon Kids’.

Backtrack: Invention

Backtrack is a series devoted to backtracking to tell short stories about songs I've written.

This piece is what its name implies: an invention. Most of the traditional stuff I wrote for school I’ve never been too fond of but I think this one is somewhat charming. I’m probably more fond of the patch — a simple blend of a Rhodes Mark I sample and a Triangle wave oscillator. I think I also took the liberty of changing some notes afterwards, some of which may break counterpoint rules. It’s been a few years since I’ve studied counterpoint and while I remember most of the rules off-hand, it can be difficult to identify them on the fly. But here you do have a typical structure, establishing an idea and playing around with it in different ways. There’s a shift to traditional minor at 0:18, and another shift to the dominant at 0:30 with a pedal point, before returning to the original key at the very end.

Backtrack: Marathon

Backtrack is a series devoted to backtracking to tell short stories about songs I've written.

Marathon is a track I wrote in 2007 but was never really sure it was finished. It sat on my hard drive for about a year and then I made a few cosmetic changes and gave it to Pterodactyl Squad for a compilation. The whole introduction and pad sound was heavily influenced by late 70s/ early 80s horror soundtracks such as "Solamente Nero" (1978), composed by Stelvio Cipriani and performed by the Italian group Goblin. I wrote and produced the track in Reason, which I’ve always found lends itself well to writing mechanical sounding music. Reason also has some nice effects that you can automate to do cool things, like the bitcrushed swell-out around 03:30.

There’s also some glitchy drum elements, though those are less prominent. Around this time I was exploring Squarepusher a bit, so I could probably make a connection between the two. The melody was originally vibraphone, but I switched it out with a pulse lead which I think works out better in this case.