Solstice - Track Notes

Samhain - track 4
Written in two parts, the first centres around Herne (the stag god) and the second the human festival associated with this time of year (late October - early November). The first part was built around an atmospheric drone featuring natural sounds, with a low pitched flute like solo played over it. The three notes on the horn at the beginning were matched in pitch and tone to the flagolet (flute) solo in order to create a 'morph' like change leading into the track. Hannah's solo was arranged by compiling together performances taken from a jam session, the same session was processed further to create the solo on the track 'While the Green Man Sleeps' (track 6) in an attempt at depicting the start and end to the winter's cycle. Sound effects include:- been pod (moreton bay fig) and Mexican day of the dead rattle (!), both favourites of mine for shamanistic type moments.

The second part of 'Samhain' was built around a 'drums around the campfire' type recording. The music could have got quite 'dark' at this point but in the end I decided to make the arrangement more 'upbeat' in order to fit in more with the overall mood of celebration. Also using Ben on violin for the first time gave me the opportunity to steer the 'shaman' sound into new territory!

The main melody was recorded as a set of harmonies to the violin, then left to play on their own for the first time round - treble, descant and soprano recorders. On the third time through the violin starts first and is soon joined by all the harmonies. The fade at the end lets the keyboard sounds shine through before returning the listener to the ground ready for the winter solstice - wavestation, M1R, VL7, etc.

 

Winter Solstice - track 5
This was taken from a piece originally intended as the follow up to the 'Shaman' album. The brittle DX7 sounds and the chicken flute 'bird calls' seemed to have a cold but epic feel which felt just right as a starting point for the concept behind this track. Simon's guitar solo over the slow drum fade marks the sun setting on the shortest day of the year, which flows into the stillness of the winters night (featuring wind, wolves, more wind chimes, DX7 sounds, etc).

The melody had a slightly 'Celtic' flavour which made for a good starting point when I was working on the rest of the album. Also the rhythm approach helped set the mood and define how far to go with that aspect of the arrangements. The shape of the track was created by cross fading three sections of the original piece using Cubase VST on the Mac.

 

Beltane - track 8
This was the first track I worked on for the album. From the start I had a fairly definite idea about what sort of feel I was looking for. Perhaps that explains why it ended up being the most difficult track to finish! I wanted the album to touch on some different emotions at this point - powerful chords - natures strength returning, the mixture of wild feedback and understated acoustic instruments and melodies tries to mirror the social occasion marking the beginning of spring with the raw power of the earth spirit.

The languid fretless bass parts are an attempt at creating a relaxed centre to the atmosphere of celebration. There is a trance-like quality to the harp interludes which help separate the images. The way the rhythm fades out near the end of the track tries to conjure up the image of sitting round the camp fire at the end of the day as the drumming gradually subsides. While the e-bow over the last chord is a musical reference to the track 'Phoenix' from the album 'Fire Queen' and is meant to represent the embers of the Beltane fire (bonfire).

 

Notes on computer based recording.
Working on a concept like this, where the order of events are so important, was an interesting angle on one of my favourite aspects of production, i.e. album structure and development. The ability to change arrangements after a performance has been recorded was particularly useful for this reason. Another example being the ability to take a performance on one piece of music and mutate it for use on another piece (for instance the violin part on track 1 was the source material for the violin on track 7).

In the case of track 5, sounds used on the original recording were no longer available (midi info plus DX7 performance) so importing the original multitrack recordings allowed new arrangements to be built up!

 

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