I quickly went on to draw out part a, using e-piano, Mellotron strings, a long attack/release organ-type bass and a “stab pad”. The simple and soft piece then adds an arp synth and timpani before moving seamlessly into part A.
Part A is in an andante 5/4 groove and in Ab Lydian tonality. Using various synth brass sounds, a soft but “plucked” synth bass and the aforementioned timpani and arpsynth, it moves majestically through A-B-A’ (with a much-trunctated A’ part) in mainly homophonic arrangement.
Afterwards, I was thinking of an electric guitar solo. Having several gos at this, I discovered that everything I could think of at the moment did not work – so I decided to let this part be for now.
Now the decision to have all tracks in one project in Cubase has another advantage, namely that if you get stuck in one section, you can seamlessly jump into another. Before that, I decided to roughly sketch out durations, meteres/tempi and tonalities, so I knew where to jump to.
I added tracks for markers, tempo/meter and scale/harmonies in the project view, and went on to put marker ranges onto the place I had roughly assumed for the individual tracks. After doing so, I could already include the things I had already thought up relating to tonality and tempo/meter changes. For that, I first had set the marker track to linear mode (i.e. it referenced the marker positions to absolute times, not to bars and beats) and then added the tempo/meter changes where they were bound to appear relating to the track boundaries, in the next step typicall moving markers and tempo/meter changes to full bars, and finally adding the tonality changes in musical mode (and going with everything in musical mode for now). And with that, I was able to jump somewhere else – in that case, part b.
By the time I got here, I had made up more ideas than before. No, no more details about a theme (apart that it comes from part D and is to be played on guitar), but more on the orchestral bass drum, and also the rest. I had decided to revisit a move I had picked up back when I worked with Dieter Schnebel, and that was using percussive instrumnents based on a pulse and with each instrument’s hits defined by primes. In that specific case, I preferred primes and, for the lower ones, powers of primes, which resulted in all of them being coprime, and a period over all five voices of about ten minutes.
Primes, Coprimes, and Schnebel
Having decided on pitched percussion instruments, I did then create Cubase events with lengths of 4, 5, 7, 9 and 11 and pitches forming an Ab Lydian tonic. I then repeated those events until, after ten minutes, everything came out in sync again – and then I threw away the first seven minutes of it.
Going from Ab Lydian to F is not that hard – and let’s forget the fact that we’re going to an octatonic scale here for the destination. Like every ecclesiastic mode, Lydian has three minor, three major and one diminished triad. Here, the major chords land on I, II and V (allowing us to do an all-major II-V-I turnaround), on the other hand, the subdominant is a wicked diminished chord. Unfortunately, F’s dominant is minor, as are the dominant and double dominant substitutions, but here’s another tricky one: the plagal cadence using minor dominant and major subdominant works! All in all, there’s, quite literally, a way to go from A to B.
I did then work on my five individual percussion voices and changed pitches from time to time, so they would, quite subtely and at first hard to notice, create a chord progression to change tonality.
What about that “spaced orchestral bass drum”? As we were already working with primes and coprimes, I decided to use one of Bartok’s faves here: the Fibonacci series. I simply reversed that one (or put it in cancer, to speak in counterpoint terms) for the series’ first “1” coinciding with the “sync point” of the voices described above. Then there was something about a melody? I decided to postpone that.