This past weekend I watched a good portion of the Live Earth Concerts starting with The Soweto Gospel Choir in South Africa. Their performance included an amazing percussion ensemble. Nothing but rhythm and glorious syncopation. This started my mind wandering (along with the book “This is Your Brain on Music“) about the importance of rhythm. So much of the more recent Hungry Lucy material has begun with melody or harmonic progression. I used to start a lot of writing purely from a rhythmic place (“In the Circle”, “You Are”) and wanted to get back to that. So, with nothing but rhythm, syncopation and a lot of swing I started to construct something. I wanted to capture the feel of this massive percussion ensemble with their heavily syncopated “high-pitched” parts and heavy, thunderous hits emphasizing the downbeats. This was working for me and providing the momentum I’d hoped for. Being a lover of contrast I added an oddly arpeggiated synth-bass figure. So far, sounds like nothing I’ve heard before … perfect! Now for a little matching. Christa has quite a library of song fragments that she has recorded vocals for. One in particular is called “Hill”. I think it’s about 2 years old. The vocal melody has a celtic/Middle-Ages feel to it and has always felt like it should be something cool, but I’ve never found a satisfying setting for it. So, I tried dropping it in against this rhythmic piece … with a little time-stretching, it works. So, I went about figuring out a chord structure for it … came up with something very Bach sounding … not right for this. I tried dropping out every other chord change … getting better. The oddly arpeggiated bass now follows the chord progression. After adding some counter-melodies (way in the background) and some sweeping pads I feel I’m on to something pretty cool. I have an intro, verse section and chorus and then kick the whole piece in with some standard fair “rock drumming”, splashy open high-hats and all along with a Depeche Mode styled synth riff. After going back and anchoring everything with some “felt, but barely heard” bass, the piece is feeling nice and full. A good day’s work.
I’m sure we’ll talk about this on this week’s podcast (to be recorded and posted Monday eve, July 9) and maybe play a bit. I’ve tried to capture the way I work here, so I apologize for the many sentence fragments … this is how my brain works.