Monday, February 12, 2007

The Grey Era: 1996 - 1999

The so-called “Grey Era” (yeah, yeah...English spelling) actually ran concurrent with the early part of the “Purple Era”, but I consider it distinct for a number of reasons. The period from 1996 to early 1999 was a time of many changes in my life, but it was also one of exploration. The storm and stress that would follow from the end of 1999 hadn’t started yet, and I was doing a lot of thinking and experimenting. I was also heavily involved with sci-fi / fantasy as a gamer, a reader, and an author. Inevitably, that fit of whimsical creativity found its way into my music.

The Confederation Suite (1999)

1. Fyllven (Aragonese)
2. Texture 12 (Arcadian)
3. Commander's March (Besteeng)
4. Vien Fien (Dubian)
5. Hr'Ankith (Ergothei)
6. Dama-den-billjwak (Farbett)
7. Exercise Routine #751 (Fasion)
8. Suei'Karme (Foldorian)
9. Tupar - suHem (Gerlangian)
10. Thock-Charrgh (Ibitonian)
11. A Cek Tear (Lybolt)
12. 42034 (Zorlan)
13. Inyataicfiues (Ehrlathagi)

Ever since I was in the third grade I’ve been steadily developing the “Impasse Universe”, a sci-fi world that has served as the setting for most of my fiction writing, artwork, and a role-playing game that I and several people played in my college days (and later). I got to wondering what the ethnic / traditional music of some of the alien cultures would sound like, and this album was the result. There are a lot of races and cultures in the Impasse Universe, so I stuck with the “good guys”, the twelve major powers of the Confederation plus a conquered former member. This is undoubtedly my most artistic work…and the most bizarre. The samples I picked are among the “safest”.

"Exercise Routine #751 (Fasion)" – Everyone seems to like this one best. Picture a whole group of uniform-clad midgets with large, bald heads performing a workout routine while a leader barks out commands.

"Tupar - suHem (Gerlangian)" – This isn’t necessarily a fan favorite, but I’ve always liked it for artistic reasons. The Gerlangian nation is divided into two castes, the rustic Medwhonis, who live rather simple lives with very little technology, and the urban Gerlang, who spend all their lives sealed within their awesomely high-tech city-ships. I think you can guess who rules whom (rather oppressively). The two classes have very different languages and cultures, and the music represents this. Can you tell which is which?

"A Cek Tear (Lybolt)" – The Lybolt culture was created by one of my friends (Dewkid, to be exact), and he told me their music sounded like “Enya without lyrics” with an electric harp as the principal instrument (a la Andreas Vollenweider). This seems to be another fan favorite.

"Inyataicfiues (Ehrlathagi)" – This also seems to be a bit of a fan favorite, which surprises me. The Ehrlathagi were once the mightiest empire in the region, but at the very start of the War a combination of surprise, deception, and betrayal led to their destruction. Now about half their former nation is occupied by (and/or collaborating with) the enemy, and the remainder is serving the Confederation as a protected subject. They’re not too happy about that. This poem / song is in the Ehrkiss language. “Inyataicfiues” would translate as “(We) will have our revenge.” (Incidentally, making all the different languages for the Impasse Universe, and trying to make them either grammatically distinct or show clear linguistic devolution, has been one of the greatest pleasures for me…as well as a cause of serious headaches…).

Andy’s Arda (1997)

1. Kander the Beloved
2. Albruin, Father of Wisdom
3. Lucas the Luckbringer
4. Marden, Angel of Wrath
5. Phaltos, Father of Life
6. Drandir, Lord of Fates
7. Ral Andorak, the DeathSinger
8. Thrambral, Father of Lies
9. Tarantalus, the DarkWeaver
10. Daranon
11. On a White Horse
12. Fellstrike

My friend and former coworker Andy was the “dungeonmaster” for an AD&D campaign we were playing at the time. The setting was a fantasy world of his own creation, “Arda” (which, incidentally, is the same name for “Earth” that J.R.R. Tolkien used in The Silmarillion). He had put a lot of work into its development, and it was quite extensively detailed. I haven’t heard from him in a while, but last I heard he was still writing novels and short stories based on his Arda setting.

The album mainly consists of a suite I made inspired by the nine deities of Arda, each representing one of the ethical alignments of AD&D (i.e. good vs. evil, law vs. chaos). For the sake of balance, each movement is close to equal length. Musically they are quite different.

"Albruin, Father of Wisdom" – Albruin represents Neutral Good, the alignment of enlightenment and unconditional love. I always pictured him as being sort of Buddha-like, so I made this tune meditative.

"Drandir, Lord of Fates" – Drandir represents Chaotic Neutral, the alignment of aimlessness, random fate, and, well, insanity. That pretty much sums it up. My wife still says this is her absolute favorite of all my works. I’m not sure whether to take that as an insult or not.

"Thrambral, Father of Lies" – Thrambral represents Neutral Evil, the alignment of profit without principle (i.e. pure greed). He is mainly the deity worshipped by thieves, spies, and assassins, so I gave this tune a sense of sneakiness…sort of a “what’s that slinking in the shadows?” kind of thing.

"Tarantalus, the DarkWeaver" – Tarantalus represents Chaotic Evil, the alignment of totally unrepressed, wanton desire. Not to give evil an undue balance here, but this has to be one of the most disturbing pieces I’ve ever created. Tarantalus is the only one of the Nine that actually lives on Arda itself. He is imprisoned in a deep vault beneath a mountain, where he speaks in the dreams of the unwary, cultivating their sympathy, tempting them, corrupting them, and, hopefully, enticing the powerful among them to work toward his release. The theme of this tune is sinister voices speaking in the dark depths of one’s consciousness, both to plead for compassion and to twist the soul (i.e. I had fun with my Korg sampler).

The Hero’s Way (1996)

1. Fanfare
2. Hergoth National Anthem
3. Ganneth
4. Mutual Awareness
5. Call to Arms
6. Under Their Feet
7. Behold Your Son
8. The Temple
9. The Hero's Way
10. Oasis
11. 200 Years (of Loneliness)
12. Curtain Call - Yangae National Anthem
13. Our Little One
14. Educate the Lower Class

1. Brighter Than Ever
2. School Forbidden
3. The Chase
4. Solilo-Ro'Kister
5. Brighter Than Ever (reprise)
6. The Tempest
7. Interlude
8. Of Love and Vengeance
9. Star-Crossed Lover
10. Dilemma
11. Finale
12. News of the New Cycle
13. Epilogue
14. The Hero's Way/Star-Crossed Lover (reprise)

The Hero’s Way is a two-disk set. The entire album is a rock opera that I wrote back in my college days. I was always very proud of it, so it was one of the first works that I recorded once I first got my home studio up and running. The original version, recorded in 1990, was a 100-minute cassette tape album that, well, sucked…but it still had lots of energy. This is the remake. It is a lot better than the 1990 version, but I’m still not satisfied; the quality of the production still pales in comparison with my more recent works. Maybe someday I’ll try it again...

The story is set in the Impasse Universe. Part I tells about how a reclusive (and rather arrogant) Hr’Goth poet named Ganneth finally fell in love only to have his world invaded, conquered, and devastated by a race called the Yangae. His parents are killed during the failed partisan rebellion. His lover, an initiate of the Temple, convinces him to pledge himself to the Way of the Hero (kind of like Jedi only much, much nastier). To make a long story short, he passes initiation, trains, becomes the greatest of the Heroes, leads a great rebellion, fails miserably, winds up imprisoned in the Temple, loses his priestess lover (to suicide), and finally flees into obscurity. For more than two centuries he wanders his planet, nameless and shattered (and made sadly immortal by his Hero powers). Part II tells the story of how a family of the Yangae “dirt-diggers” caste, little more than slaves, educates their daughter Lu’Teske in their secret reading room, a punishable offense. (In those days Soil Tenders weren’t allowed to read.) They are finally caught and executed by a vigilante militia. Lu’Teske escapes and becomes a Triask (entertainer/prostitute) using the street name “U’te”, whereupon after a lot of drama she winds up being taken on by a perverse Noble as a sort of toy. They travel to the world of the Hr’Goth, and the Noble promptly ditches her. Yangae colonists there don’t treat her very well. Guess who winds up coming to her rescue? In Part III Ganneth and U’te wind up becoming a very unlikely couple. Unfortunately, when U’te restores his self-confidence he immediately sets out to start the rebellion again. He finally succeeds in setting the stage for the liberation of his people, but not before killing both himself and his lover in one gigantic, crust-ripping thermal explosion. The end.

Many of the tunes are long, and they tend to segue into each other. That made track designation very difficult. Sometimes I’d have to chop one tune up into two or three or four because of changes in tone…or to keep an individual track from being more than fifteen minutes long. That also made it difficult for me to select tracks to post here. I chose ones that listeners have said they liked, but some of them are only excerpts of much longer works.

"The Heros Way" – The priesthood won’t accept just anybody to become a Hero. They do their damnedest to convince would-be candidates to change their minds. Ganneth doesn’t, he succeeds in becoming the greatest of the Heroes…and accomplishes nothing but getting a few cities nuked as a warning for him to behave himself.

"Oasis" – The Yangae know they can neither defeat nor hold Ganneth, so they demand that he submit to imprisonment in the Temple (or they’ll nuke more cities). He agrees, but doesn’t exactly follow the rules. He and his priestess lover keep sneaking out to the gardens to be together. It’s all a bit hard for her to take, though, and she finally loses it. All Ganneth gets is one last note (a suicide note, actually). That sends him fleeing off into obscurity for two centuries.

"Brighter Than Ever" – This song introduces the performer/prostitute U’te, formerly the orphaned Soil Tender girl Lu’Teske. She entertains men of higher castes and thus earns her living, but her “family” is still the dregs of society, and she does her best to help support them.

"Star-Crossed Lover" – Ganneth, now fully revived, has gone off to fight the Yangae again, leaving his Yangae prostitute lover U’te all alone. This is her soliloquy. I used a unique tuning and playing style to try to emulate a musical instrument used by lower-caste Yangae. I only wish I had a female vocalist on hand…my voice does NOT suit the part!

Only four tracks out of two CDs is hardly a good representation of the work (and seems like kind of a waste), but…oh, well. I’ll leave it at that.


The Intrepid Adventurer said...

I miss Andy. Unfortunately that &^%$#(@ is even worse at keeping in touch with people than I am...

The Moody Minstrel said...

Good to see you, I.A.!!!

Two years ago Andy suddenly set up a blog site of his own, wrote one post on it, commented once on my blog, and hasn't done anything else there since. Last year he sent me an e-mail out of the blue saying he was coming to Japan and wanted to see me, but I never heard another word.

Bottom line: any word from him should be taken with a grain of salt.

How are you enjoying that incredible machine of yours these days?

She-Hulk's Bitch said...

Wow, this is very impressive… I can’t wait for your Green Era.

The Moody Minstrel said...

SHB, be careful what you ask for. The "Green Era" is the very first one (1990-1992), and the quality of the production is pretty bad...and sometimes the songwriting, too...

The Intrepid Adventurer said...

Man, the mean machine is lonely. I got her out in January when a day came up into the 60's and was actually on the weekend. Unfortunately the best since then has been lower 50's and always when I am at work. You still working with Sachiyo? If so tell her hello for me.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I.A., Sachiyo is the "Ms. Y" I mentioned on my main blog. I will pass on your greeting, however.