first step

August 23, 2009 9:24 PM

An instrumental track that went under the working title "pseudo-eastern." Most prominently features guitars, lap steel, fretless bass and programmed sitar sounds. The subtle percussion is a spinner ring kind of like this one, run through a healthy dose of reverb.

I'm pretty happy with how the different instruments come together to form a whole here, and melodically I think it's one of my more interesting efforts (?). I'd welcome any and all feedback, negative or positive.

posted by edlundart (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Melodically very interesting, indeed, but doesn't strike me as especially "eastern"... actually the ever-modulating melody is, by definition, very "western". But it's a very pretty and unique little piece. Well done!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:39 AM on August 25, 2009

I think that it has a bit of an eastern feel, mostly due to the sitar and that note that sounds like a minor second. Whether not it's western in structure, I have no idea, but I like it too, particularly the bass part.
posted by bone machine at 4:11 PM on August 25, 2009

Thanks -- I'm certainly not smart enough about music theory to know how eastern it really is, but I'm sure flapjax is right. I guess for me it sounded vaguely eastern which pushed me toward creating a different kind of melody with more interesting choices than I otherwise would fall into. flapjax, if you drop back into this thread, would you mind sharing some knowledge regarding modulating melodies and east vs west? I don't even really know what a modulating melody is.

bone machine, I'm excited that you liked the bass part, as this is the first song I've ever played bass on. I just bought myself a bass recently, after having never played one before. It's fun to try to add melodic bass lines to things.
posted by edlundart at 7:52 PM on August 25, 2009

Actually, edlundart, I am uneducated in the realm of music theory, so, unfortunately, I can't pick this apart and tell you precisely what I mean from a purely scientific point of view. But what I mean by "modulating melody" here is that the melody employs intervallic relationships that imply a chord structure and key changes, and that sounds inherently "western" to my ears. Pretty much all "eastern" (and that's a really big, vague word, actually) music pieces will employ a scale or mode with less "motion" than we're seeing in your melody here. So I've used the word "modulating" to indicate the kind of melodic movement that implies chord changes and key changes, both of which are features of 'western' music, and are largely absent in 'eastern' music, as these terms are generally understood.

A simple non-scientific explanation might be useful. Let's take four Beatles songs. Two songs, "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Within You and Without You" both employed no chord changes and featured melodies with only a relative handful of notes. These songs did not "modulate", and were both inspired by "eastern" music. They had an "eastern" feel to them. Then let's take two others, say, "If I Fell" and "Martha My Dear": these both have rather long and intricate melodic structures which twist and turn over a variety of chord changes. Their melodies are more elaborate; they have, well, more notes, since they follow a chord pattern which has much more harmonic movement than the two "eastern" songs mentioned previously.

But really, the whole "eastern" thing, like I said, we're talking a LOT of musical territory... from incredibly complex Indian raags to 5 or 7-note Indonesian scales found in Gamelan music to the virtually indecipherable melodic codes of Peking Opera... once you really start thinking about it, using a term like "eastern" is ultimately absurd!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:10 PM on August 25, 2009

Very good points about the ludicrous usage of "eastern," I should watch that. It means so many things that in the end the word means almost nothing. Nevertheless, I really appreciate your Beatles-based explanation going along with the somewhat silly east/west divide. I'll study those songs a bit to gain a fuller understanding of your point, but I already get an idea of what you're saying.
posted by edlundart at 11:09 PM on August 25, 2009

This is a sweet piece ed, and it has a nice full sound with the interplay of your instruments. Very cool stuff.

flapjax' summation of the east/west thing is right on the money.

Knowing you, I'm sure you'll be looking things up and I can't wait to hear the results of your investigating.

(I'm suddenly interested in "eastern" music now!)
posted by snsranch at 6:49 PM on August 26, 2009

Thanks snsranch! I've been listening to those Beatles tracks and also some ragas and stuff I've got around, and I think flapjax made a good point about harmonic movement. It sort of crystallized something for me.

I'm exploring some of these things as I search for a new direction, I guess you could say. It's an ongoing process, but I want to take my music to kind of another place than where it's been. I feel like I keep writing the kinds of melodies I don't want to be making... I guess certain things come easy to me, and I'm resisting that a bit. I realize this is possibly foolish, but hopefully, at the very least, it will expand my range. This track feels like a step in the right direction in that regard. The song I'm currently working on feels like a step back... it's called "a forest and a tree," and I can't wait to get it done so I can move on to something else.
posted by edlundart at 10:31 PM on August 27, 2009

I realize this is possibly foolish...

Not one bit.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:00 PM on August 27, 2009

The fretless bass is so melty and smooth--the whole thing is very nice, but that's the dark chocolate frosting on the already tasty cake.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 6:22 PM on August 29, 2009

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