Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Purple Era: 1996 - 2001

Islands (2001)

1. Exile pt. I
2. Exile pt. II
3. Getting On
4. Moonlight Escape / The Dewdrop
5. The Storm / The Dilapidated House
6. Fading Away
7. Tides
8. Sometimes
9. Blue Airplane
10. Virtually Real Life
11. Crazed Obsession
12. Tell Me Now
13. Play In Feeling
14. Sono Aida

In 2001 things finally started to calm down...in some ways but not in others. I was no longer going nuts from emotional turmoil, but a lot of strange things were still happening. Perhaps the most significant event was my getting totally fed up with all the obnoxious gossiping and factionalism in the staff room at work, so I finally packed up the contents of my desk and relocated to a nice, quiet island of my own in the music clubroom. The isolation did a lot for my peace of mind and also boosted my creativity. This album took a bit of time to finish, but I also completed a whole bunch of literary works during the same period. My buying a new Roland synth workstation had a major impact on the music.

Exile Pt. II - This song, the second on the album, describes my flight from "society" into "exile" as well as my realization that someone else of significance had done the same thing. It's a sort of psychic expression of mutual understanding.

Moonlight Escape - The Dewdrop - This is the first movement of a three-part instrumental inspired by a Japanese legend about a warrior who falls in love with a young princess, kidnaps her, and takes her off to what turns out to be a haunted forest...where she winds up being eaten by an ogre. Not a very happy tale, but it is kind of moving.

Blue Airplane - I had a whole bunch of really vivid and totally bizarre dreams during this period. Many of them turned out to be prophetic. At first the "airplane dream" was just a very disturbing puzzle...loaded with symbolism but very unclear. That was the inspiration for this tune. Incidentally, I later figured the dream out, and it was indeed prophetic. I know now that I probably should have called this song "Purple Airplane", but I didn't bother changing the title. Still, though that cute, little plane is no longer buzzing my neighborhood, I'm perfectly happy still to be able to see it flying in the distance...

Crazed Obsession - I wasn't the only one with obsessions during this period. The internet outlet was turning out to be both a means of expression and a way of earning the ire of some people...

Diminished Arcana (2000)

1. Waves & Shallows
2. The Tower & The Sun
3. Till It Comes...
4. Ten of Swords
5. Follow On
6. Guardian Angel
7. Romantic Odyssey
8. Little, Lost Bird
9. Illuminati
10. Object
11. Learn About Life
12. The Final Outcome

Summer vacation in 2000 finally gave me and my overwrought midbrain a much-needed break. It gave me time to calm down and rationalize things. It also woke me up to the fact that other people I knew were suffering far worse than I was. I wound up writing and recording all these songs during a record-breakingly short (and very cathartic) 2-week period. I was spending almost all my time in my studio...and I'd start a new song as soon as I'd finished the one before it. I was both meditating and playing with my tarot cards a lot during this period, which wound up being reflected in both the album cover and the lyrics.

Ten of Swords - One of my longtime close female friends (actually the younger sister of one of my best friends from my school days) sent me a shocking e-mail. She and her husband had always seemed like such a tight and unbreakable couple...but he had suddenly freaked out and left her for reasons that seemed just plain mental. I immediately called her, and we chatted for two hours, after which I made this song. (Incidentally, they wound up divorcing, but she recently remarried and seems much happier now.)

Guardian Angel - One day, when my wife succeeded in prying me out of my studio long enough to help with some housework, I just picked up my alto recorder and started playing this melody. By nightfall this tune was finished. I have actually performed this one live.

Follow On - There are a number of short, reflective, acoustic numbers like this one on Diminished Arcana. I think they are the album's high point.

Object - We get a lot of spoiled rich kids at Ye Olde Academy, and some of them really get on my nerves. No further explanation necessary.

Through the Valley (2000)

1. Purge
2. Stroll
3. The Pool
4. Hr'Voyan Shambas
5. Sudden Realization
6. Whatever Happens
7. Advice?
8. Reassertion
9. Reassurance
10. Murasaki

In 1999 my dream job at Ye Olde Academy suddenly turned into a nightmare. I was assigned, over my protests, to teach classes I had no business teaching (for reasons of politics, I later learned), and everyone knew it. Suddenly I went from being respected by my students to being openly dissed. Parents and other members of the faculty started complaining about me. The principal made a thinly-veiled recommendation for me to resign so he could replace me with someone he thought had better qualifications. Even the fellow members of my grade team suddenly started treating me like an unworthy hanger-on. Just as my self-confidence seemed on the verge of total collapse, however, I discovered that I was getting support from an unexpected source.

I won't bother going into too much detail because it could easily become a small novel. Suffice to say that I came to rely on that support too much, and when it suddenly disappeared (read "was yanked from me by people who had the wrong idea") in February of 2000 I completely fell apart, and so did the events surrounding me. For a while I seriously thought I was losing my mind. It didn't take long for me to regain control, but by then my reputation was pretty much in the gutter, people were trying to "save" me in ways that just pissed me off, my wife was terribly worried and upset, and I wanted more than anything to get marooned on a nice, quiet island somewhere.

Anyway, this album is short but rather emotional.

Stroll - This is the middle segment of a three-part instrumental describing a character from my writing (the same one featured in the View from the Tower album) as she takes a stroll through a sacred forest to an enchanted hot spring pool. I composed the main moving parts on my computer sitting at my desk feeling horribly depressed.

Reassertion - Just when I thought things were becoming rational again, and I was reasserting control over myself and my feelings, the reason for the distress suddenly distressed me again for a completely different and even more distressing reason.

Murasaki - The title means "purple" in Japanese, and it was significant for several reasons. The tune itself was originally inspired by a poem, written back in the 11th century, in which a soldier expresses the agony he feels at seeing the woman he has always loved, and who until then had been his lover, dressed in purple because she has just married the Emperor. The music ends as the poem ends, with a lonely voice moving off into the distance, resigning itself to circumstances it can't hope to change. When I completed this tune I knew it was time to end the album, short though it was, because it was clear to me that that chapter in my life had come to a close. Actually, it hadn't, but it continued in a different way in Diminished Arcana.

Phases of Matter (1998)

1. Three for the Road
2. Snabulus
3. Empty Glory
4. Grey World
5. Spin
6. Waking Cerebrum
7. Goer'dan
8. Guide
9. Technophiliac
10. Prayer of the Age
11. Dizzy Dreamer
12. Tlesca
13. You, Me, We

This album actually began as two separate ones, Phase into Phantasy (1996) and The Soul of the Matter (1998). I was dissatisfied with those two works for several reasons, so I picked them apart and put the salvaged parts together into one CD about the same time I finished Open Halls. The period from 1996 to 1999 was one of many changes. It saw the transition from all-analog production to my first works recorded on my 8-track digital recorder (but, at that time, mastered on analog gear...big mistake). It also saw my first experiments with MIDI programming, something I now take for granted. Unfortunately, I also suffered a lot of technical problems, some of which can be heard in the songs, resulting in things being replaced. As far as my life was concerned, I, my wife, and our new baby daughter had just moved into the little house next door to the in-laws. I had also just started my promising, new career at Ye Olde Academy. I also started getting more and more into spiritualism during this period, combining elements of Christianity, Zen Buddhism, Native American shamanism, and occult mysticism. It seemed like my whole world was reinventing itself, but I had reason to be optimistic despite the looming millennium and all the darkness that it would portend...

Three for The Road - This instrumental was the first tune on Phase into Phantasy and is now the opener for Phases of Matter. I think this is some of my best experimentation with the limited guitar gear I had at the time.

Grey World - The mood wasn't always jovial. Sometimes it seemed like everywhere I looked the assholes were winning out over the good people. Here's a healthy bit of cynicism to express that.

Tlesca - Some have said this is the best tune I've ever made. I'm not sure I agree...especially with that crappy guitar opening (on a cheap, pickup-equipped acoustic run through analog gear that munched up the sound...and I didn't bother doing a retake when I botched it). Still, it is a cool tune once it gets going. It also has by far the strangest story behind it of any musical work I've made. Maybe someday I'll tell it. BTW, this tune apparently got some airplay in Bangalore, India thanks to a friend of mine there who promoted my work.

You, Me, We - And here my 1980s Britpop influence (thanks to my wife) becomes readily obvious. I don't care what anyone else says; this song is still my personal favorite of all time even though it's very simple and repetitious. There are only two guitars (plus bass), but I used some multitrack trickery to make it sound like there are three guitars. There is also a bit of track cutout due to equipment failure (in the master so I can't fix it unless I totally redo it). The lyrics are "ghostwritten", i.e. I meditated for a while and then quickly sketched the words automatically. I'm not sure exactly what it was about, but it might have had something to do with something that was starting to happen at the school (which wound up inspiring the Through the Valley album).


memo said...

wow..I did not know you had so many albums..took my a while to discover this other blog--"dumb me".. I have been trying to listen to some of the tracks, but it doesn't seem to be loading..I will try again in a while..could be my internet connection..but again WOW..
I look forward to listening to tracks from through the valley..best music is always the emotional one :)

The Moody Minstrel said...

Memo, it could be your connection, and it could also be a matter of timing. I've discovered that the files load more slowly during certain peak hours, which I guess only makes sense. At any rate, I suppose that's what I get for using the free service. If I get enough requests, I'll switch to the paid service, which gives a faster download time.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Another possible alternative, if you really can't get those tunes to load, would be for me to send you copies of those albums you're interested in hearing in their entirety (but please don't ask for the whole set!). Either that or I could put together a compilation CD of tunes linked here. I'm more than happy to make my work available to people I know, even if we only communicate online, and I've already sent disks to a few members of the blog "circle".