By Eric Bell
Emotions are very important in life -- and in music. Yet they are difficult to embrace and even harder to express. What is music if not a vehicle to express emotions in a way that's free of the constraints of language, in a way that can be understood and felt by all? At a time in my life when great changes are afoot, I find myself listening to a brace of very emotional compositions submitted by you trackers.
Whirled Peace. As Jace Cavacini (a.k.a. Splattered Mind) puts it, "Peace Never Stays." His 8-channel FastTracker composition of that name "started out as an experiment in positivity and ended up as a photograph of quiet unhappiness."
"Peace" uses simple samples such as piano and bell and many monophonic melody lines to create its sonic landscape. An arpeggiated string sample is accented by single piano notes to outline a fairly pedestrian chord structure.
In the middle of the piece, some loud piano notes herald a change in mood and tonality. Increasing dissonance and energy are carefully and seamlessly woven into the fabric of the piece as it gaines in intensity. The types of figures used so effectively in the first, calmer phase of the song are maintained, but more individual notes are used. It's as if the notes themselves were spawning and cloning into something evil. The piece ends quickly with a fade-out, leaving the listener stranded in a not very welcoming place.
One interesting effect is the echoed bell sounds in the middle of the tune. Isolate tracks 5 and 6 and you'll hear how Splattered Mind plays the sample multiple times on different tracks at different volumes to achieve this multi-tap delay effect.
I would describe "Peace Never Stays" as "tracked pointillism" -- a composition made of many individual spots of sound. This track is all about emotion and structure. The melodic and harmonic devices employed transmit this emotional energy flawlessly to the listener. It's straight-forward, yet very powerful.
The next time you do a composition, try a traditional technique. Start with a simple, clear theme, emotion, or feel, and see how seemlessly and effectively you can take the listener to a different place. If you accomplish your goal, your composition has changed from a piece of music into a journey.
Compare "His Moment Cut Short" -- also by Splattered Mind -- which also relies heavily on piano samples and simple chordal structure. This piece, released in support of the National Missing Children's Organization, starts slow, gains in intensity, and then, via a repeating piano figure, evokes the tragedy of a child gone missing as a repeated note fades slowly away. There's a denouement in a minor key, and a quiet ending. It's another set of emotions and transitions, effectively translated -- in this case, for a very good cause.