A track by track blog on the music from “Days of Sun and Days of Rain” – a consideration of the music and some reflections along the way
This is one of several pieces here featuring online collaboration with Dave Scarth, a great bass player who I have had the pleasure of working with over many years.
Giving Way… is one of the few pieces I have written recently which is built on structured chord progressions. It begins with a vamp on the chord of E which eventually moves to its relative minor. This, in turn, triggers a descending chord sequence which probably owes something to an Ian Anderson song from the Jethro Tull album Stand Up. The song in question is one of my favourites – ‘We Used to Know’ and makes a refreshing change from the usual hackneyed diatonic progressions from the standard popular music repertoire. I’m not the only one to have been enchanted by this sequence of chords. The Eagles used something very similar in Hotel California, which has been notably pointed out by the Jethro Tull frontman…. I’m hoping I will slip under his radar.
The vamp guitar part plays short choppy phrases which feature extensively the bluesy flattened 4th and flattened 2nd. I suppose the idea is that if your are going to play just a few notes you might as well include some interesting/unusual ones. The reason for working with just a few notes is to draw the emphasis away from any notions of melody so that I can focus on the rhythm implications and interplay with the other sounds. More conventional melodic solos were added at a later stage.
The percussion part, featuring congas, chugs along in the background. How do you prevent a repeated midi drum loop from sounding mechanical and artificial – unless you record it live or spend hours ‘drawing in’ fills and faffing about with quantisation values? Well I think I have found an approach that works for me… I’ll share this in a subsequent post.
As I said at the beginning of this article, the bass part was the result of an online collaboration. A third party service called Splice allows users to share Ableton files online with specified collaborators. This is normally something I might shy away from as I would feel apprehensive about sharing my work with unknown musicians who might add parts which were at odds with my conception of the piece. However, Dave Scarth is a trusted and competent musician who I have worked with over many years in a variety of musical contexts. Keeping with touch with my circle of musicians from York was always going to be a problem once I had moved out of the area, but Splice allows me to collaborate on projects without the need to load up the car and drive up the motorway. It can also be a very efficient way of working. It gave Dave the opportunity to reflect on the piece before making his contribution in his own time. I think the results show that this is a valid way of working as there is considerable musical empathy between the tracks I had laid down as a foundation and Dave’s bass part. Listen for example to the call/response nature of the initial guitar bass exchanges.
This is my first recording featuring the use of an E-Bow, best described as a kind of hand held electronic bow for the guitar. It is the E-Bow which produces the long, sustained notes that you can hear in this piece.
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