Hybrid Electronic Composition
‘A soul never dies’ is a three-minute long, hybrid composition that revolves around death and live after death. The idea behind it was not only composing a song, but explaining a story. It is my belief, that a message is clearer transmitted when narrative is implied and abstractionism is eluded. Thus, both the music and the external sounds are deliberately combined with a narrative purpose that results in a story, divided into the classic generic structure: introduction, body and conclusion. In the following diagram, it can be seen how the music and the external sounds are related as well as how the three parts are linked and the references used for each section:
-Music for the funeral of Queen Mary (I)
Liberation of the Soul
-Music for the funeral of Queen Mary (II)
The first and longest part (‘death’) puts the listener in context and prepares him for what is to come. For the whole section, the different instruments/sound will slowly go layering up until a solid harmony is formed. Starting with a heart-monitor beeping – actually a recording of Tesco’s scan machine – and a long, low note on the synthesizer simultaneously; this section develops a tense texture that will endure for the rest of the piece. A transformed lead synth from logic – through filters and distortion – will precede the entry of the medical team (YouTube 2006). Just like the heart-monitor beep, the medical team recording is a mimetic sound that makes the listener sense the tension lived in a hospital where someone’s life is great peril.
This agony, stress and pressure are well reflected in the music that harmonizes this sequence. Based on the Music for the funeral of Queen Mary (Purcell, 2002) and the posterior arrangement for the well-known Clockwork Orange film (Carlos, 1972); the main melody is here arranged in a neurotic line on the synthesizer – real time input with constant ups and downs – and accompanied by an organ, more loyal to the original harmony. The introduction concludes with the phrase ‘time of death, 3 o’clock’ and a low, delayed note as a musical response. From this point, all the music stops – evidencing that the character of the story has passed away. Only a continuous beep remains – yet another mimetic sound representing no heart activity on the heart monitor.
The way I chose to link ‘Death’ and ‘Liberation of the soul’ is through a reverbed heartbeat. In fact, using the sound of a heartbeat (or emulating it) it is a rather common technique used in many modern songs, such as Beautiful day (U2, 2000) or Teardrop (Massive attack, 1998). Nonetheless, I believed it worked quite well as a connector within the story being described. Interrupting the heart-monitor’s monotony, the heartbeat will lead the build-up to the next step of the song – the ‘Liberation of the soul’, the life after death – and will eventually get mixed with the drumbeat.
The build-up consists of the heart-monitor beeping every time with more frequency until the “drop” comes in. To magnify this building-up effect, automation was used to augment the heart-monitor’s gain, reverb, delayed and compression (as seen in the picture below). Sometimes it occurs to me that this bit should perhaps last longer. It is my belief that the more exciting the drop is; the longer the build-up should be setting expectations. The drop in this song is not extremely exciting but still, the build-up seems a bit too short occasionally.
In fact, the only reason I referred to it as a “drop” is because it comes after a build-up and for the first time in the piece, it contains a drum beat. Such drumbeat was bas based on that in Strings of prisoners (Djawadi, 2007); hence the very delayed drum sound. As for the harmony, different types of synths layer up again creating a solid texture like the one in Càpsula d’emergència (Font, 2004). For this minute long process of the liberation of the soul, once more the music of Henry Purcell (Purcell, 1695) is arranged in a different way.
Whether the soul goes to heaven or hell is for the listener to decide. For the last part of the song (‘Ascent?’) the medieval music of De Morales (1991) is combined with a dub step pattern based on Skrillex’s Bangarang (2012). In order not to use an original piece within my composition, I cut three fragments of De Morales’ Mass and overlapped them creating something new. Since the whole piece is quite static and moves around the same intervals, both samplers match quite well. Finally, I left one in the centre and paned the other two at opposite sides – as an attempt to make the listener feel he is right in the middle of the choir. The dub step beat will gradually disappear letting the solemnity of De Morales’ Mass finish the piece.
The hybridism in ‘A soul never dies’ can be found in many areas. To begin with, the piece itself is a hybrid of music and narrative. I am aware that it could be easily confused with a movie soundtrack. However, it is the music that leads the story and not the other way around. Secondly, there is classical music arranged on the synthesizer and combined with electro beats; and last but not least, a Medieval Mass is mixed with a dub step base. In conclusion, three minutes of an Hybrid electronic composition with a story behind it.
-CARLOS, W. (1972) Music from a clockwork orange from Walter Carlo’s Clockwork Orange [CD] N.Y.: Columbia.
-DE MORALES, C. (1991) Missa Pro Defunctis from Officium Defunctorum [CD] Barcelona: Alia Vox.
-DJAWADI, R. (2007) Strings of Prisoners from Prison Break (Original Television Soundtrack) [CD] L.A.: Varèse Sarabande.
-FONT, A. (2004) Càpsula d’emergència from Taxi [CD] Barcelona: Discmedi Blau.
-MASSIVE ATTACK (1998) Teardrop from Mezzanine [CD] London: Virgin Records.
-PURCELL, H. (2002) Music for the funeral of Queen Mary (PDF edition) UK: Martin Straeten.
-SKRILLEX (2012) Bangarang from Bangarang [CD] US: Big Beat Records.
-U2 (2000) Beautiful day from All that you can’t leave behind [CD] Santa Monica: Interescope Records.
-YouTube (2006) EKG – Easter Preview. Video posted by user ‘HorizonsChurch’ (26 May 2006, dur. 1:40) Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DoR3kfLISDA [Last accessed: 25th February 20013].