In Porous with travel fever/PMA and serotonin, the Joni Mitchell material tends to dominate, mostly because of the guitar part, but partly because I chose to keep the tempo from Hejira. The tempo in Der Abschied changes rather a lot, from section to section, and is also played with a great deal of rubato, or flexibility in the tempo from moment to moment. In changing the material to emphasise the mood/motion qualities, I also ended up using the Mahler material at half the speed of the Mitchell – ie one beat of Abschied = two of Hejira – which means the Mahler sounds more backgrounded. So for my next pass at combining the two songs, I decided to superimpose them at the same speed, one beat=one beat, and to take the tempo from the Mahler, changes and all.
One of the main problems I had found when writing Porous with travel fever/PMA and serotonin was the volume of material: even after sculpting each song down according to the data there was a lot of music left which was difficult to squeeze in given the limited number and the kind of instruments at my disposal. So this time I decided to include a virtual instrument: a pre-recorded, chiselled away skeleton of the rhythm guitar from Hejira. This turned out to be both useful and problematic in different ways. Here’s a taster of it: you can hear how the tempo changes.
It was problematic because when you combine pre-recorded instruments with live ones synchronisation becomes difficult: particularly when the tempo is changing so often. The technical solution here was to have a click-track, a kind of metronome which records all the tempo changes which only the conductor can hear. This is what they do when recording film music which needs to be synched exactly to the action. And that’s why if you come to the concert, Paul Whitty who’s conducting, will be wearing headphones.
Like in Porous with travel fever/PMA and serotonin, I needed to hack away at the material to make it manageable, and I wanted to use research data again to do this. One of the things that I felt was lacking in the first piece was a relationship between the way in which each source was edited. So in the next piece, I decided to use only one source of data: I chose some more wormtracker data, this time from worms on aldicarb, the vermicide I mentioned before. Here is the master graph that I ended up with:
You’ll notice that there are two lines, one the inverse of the other. That means that there’s always the same amount of overall material, but that the proportion from each source varies. The red is Mahler and the blue is Mitchell: as one decreases the other increases and vice versa. In this piece I decided to use the material unchanged as well, without the emphases I had made for the first one.
The last thing I did was to use the graph to determine the level of dynamic too: how loud or soft each instrument is playing. This has the effect of increasing the contrast beween the two sources. I gave the finished piece the title Still ist mein Herz/ Aldicarb (this translates as My heart is quiet, a line from the Mahler song).
The final effect of these two pieces is a strange one: the two sources are so different, and yet in some ways quite similar. There are times when the combination is uncomfortable, unresolved, and times where they mesh astonishingly well. Both these outcomes, to me, are equally valid. One of the results of making music in the way I have done here is that you are often driven into making ‘unmusical’ decisions: ones that go counter to your instincts as a composer. These are, to me, the strongest moments in the works as they are ones that reveal most clearly both the integrity of the process, and the context of your own musical culture.