11. Days of Sun and Days of Rain

08-24-2016_4This title track to the album was possibly the easiest one to write but, conversely, is the most difficult one to write about.

The easiest pieces to write about are those where there is a lot of conscious planning involved – before and during the composing process. It is then just a straightforward matter of telling the readers about the instrumentation, how the various lines and layers were created and how they function in the context of the piece.

Days of Sun is not like that. There was little advance planning. It was more a question of following where the initial notes seemed to want to go. The whole thing was improvised as two parts of a guitar duet. They were created independently and brought together with minimal editing. The entire process of devising and recording took less than an hour. Not bad for a piece lasting over nine minutes!

The experience was akin to sleepwalking – something Arthur Koestler describes very well in his book The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe. Koestler suggests that discoveries in science arise through a process akin to sleepwalking. Not that they arise by chance, but rather that scientists are neither fully aware of what guides their research, nor are they fully aware of the implications of what they discover.

In Art and Illusion, Gombrich describes something similar when discussing the work of visual artists. He tells of the draughtsman Rodolphe Topffer whose method was to ‘doodle and watch what happens’ and of more recent artists such as Picasso who, in some of his later work, would watch the weirdest beings rising under his hands and assuming a life of their own.

Gombrich is careful to point out that these processes are not totally anarchic or uncontrolled. Skill is an important factor – a self regulating ‘feedback’ mechanism comprising a rapid and subtle interaction between impulse and subsequent guidance.

At the outset of writing this music, there was a rough idea to try and capture the essence of a specific autobiographical event. Two people going for a ramble over the fells – a father and son. They both take the same route at the same time, but walk it in different ways. The experienced walker taking a steady and more measured pace; the other skipping ahead then resting.

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Rambling – with a purpose

The musical lines ramble but with a sense of purpose. There is very little direct repetition and there is little sense of a hierarchy between the two parts. So often in writing duets we find ourselves writing one part and then writing a second part which ‘fits’ in some way with the first – which often compromises the writing of the second part. In Days of Sun, there were a few adjustments made during the editing process, but for much of the piece the parts go their own sweet ways. Both parts, however, use the same scale [an octatonic based on A] and the same tempo of 66 bpm.

Listeners will make of this music what they will, but for me it is easily the most interesting piece on the album. It bears repeated listens because I don’t fully understand what is going on. The more I listen, the more I come to understand the music – and the more I understand myself.

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Posted in Days of Sun, Uncategorized

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