There’s a special magic to the randomness.
I have a 12-sided die that I’ve had for a long time that I had never used it. I don’t even know where I got it. It struck me that there are 12 notes in the scale, and, although the dye had numbers on it, I decided to correspond a note of the scale to the number. I decided to roll the die and keep track of the results. I took the notes in the order that they were rolled and tried to make something out of that.
When I was younger, in my grade school, and high school days, I used to play a game where I would have one of my classmates make a scribble on a piece of paper. I would then try to figure out how to make that scribble into a picture of something. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always fun.
So, here I was, taking random musical notes to try to create a song. The first one turned out pretty good, so I repeated the experiment. Soon I had amassed several note sequences with which to work. I sent a couple of my musical experiments to my friend Niall who said, “Here be dragons.” That sent my imagination soaring, so I wrote the words for that song. It all just fell into place clack, clack, clack.
Regarding the timing of these experimental songs, I was interested in odd time signatures and decided to use them. I played with 5 / 4, 7 / 8, 9 / 8, and 5 / 8 at first but then began rolling the die to come up with what the time signature could be. My computer didn’t like anything that didn’t end in /4 or /8,
I also tried a few other random experiments. Some of those are also included in this album. The creative spark, and all that. On “Rangoon Creeper” I just randomly flailed away at the keyboard with my hands until something grew out of it. “Side by Side” occurred after just clearing my mind and playing piano, the words just came to me in the night one night. “The Consequence of Serendipity” just rolled out one evening. Randomness. But I think my favorites are still due to the “roll of the dice”. Admittedly, “Fuzzy Logic” has haunted me ever since I rolled the dice and wrote the notes down beginning my discovery of its story.
The Album Cover
Breakdown of the Tracks
This was the first experiment with the dodecahedron die. I decided that I would roll in groups of eight with the only rule being “no doubles.” In other words, no two notes together would be the same note. It was amazing how many times I would roll the same note over and over. Next, I decided to just try the sequence of notes in 7 / 8 time. The random time signatures in other songs came later. I liked what I heard so I stuck with it and decided the note lengths to fit with the timing. It was really starting to come together. I would speed up the sequence overlaid on a slower sequence of the notes and found it somehow worked out.
(2) Here Be Dragons
I was very surprised at how the music was making sense out of the random roll of the die. I sent my friend and former bandmate in Siem Reap a few of the songs to get his opinion. He was also surprised and responded by saying, “Here be dragons.” He was right. There are dragons hiding in the randomness. The words came to me about as fast as I could write them down. I enjoyed finding the story that lived inside that phrase. Changing the instrumentation as well as overlaying different lengths to the notes could really affect how the music grew.
(3) Fuzzy Logic
This was one of the stranger sequences of notes. When I first heard it I thought that it was too unusual to work but the more I listened to it the more it grew on me. I would wake in the middle of the night with it running through my head. It has since become one of my favorites of the series. I decided I needed to play guitar on it and set about learning the part. I found myself laughing out loud at the challenge of learning this bizarrely twisty sequence of notes. It is not any part of normal scales that I know of but it made a hauntingly beautiful melody, at least in my mind. I look forward to recording a live version someday.
(4) Rangoon Creeper
This song came about before the Dodecahedron experiment. I was trying different ways to spark random musical thoughts to break free of my own restrictions. I sat at the piano and started tapping around the keyboard without looking or thinking. To my mind, this was like the game of scribbling and trying to draw something out of that scribble. Creation is always fun but sometimes it’s really hard work. Mixing is where the labor of love lies.
(5) Side By Side
The piano part arrived one afternoon when I sat at my piano, one take and done. The orchestration took a bit longer, but there were no words for it. Then one night I woke from a dream and quietly slipped out of bed and into the kitchen. I then wrote the words that I had seen in my dream. Then I realized that they were for this song. Singing at the house is difficult because of all the noise from occasional neighbors and other sounds. I found that one of the vacated and demolished toilets of the nearly abandoned guesthouse next door worked well to record with my portable recording device.
(6) Surrender to Randomness
My second experimental roll of the dice. All based around the written notes and chords, I allowed the bass line to play any of the notes within the determined chords. I repeated phrases while also changing the length of the notes to fit the timing.
Donna rolled the die and I arranged the notes. The name came from someone misunderstanding Donna’s name and thought she was called “Donut”, LOL! So, I named her rolled die song after her, Donut. I still giggle about that.
(8) Voilà des Dragons
A bit of aural theater of the mind. Three people sitting outside a café in France discussing these accursed dragons that have been terrorizing the community. Why did someone disturb the sleeping dragons? Why didn’t they leave that gold under the mountain? Now the dragons are furious and taking out on everyone! The same theme from “Here be Dragons” played on an accordion merged with an additional experimental roll of the dice. It sounds to me like an older song that has been around, but the sequence is purely from the roll.
(9) The Consequence of Serendipity
From the experiment. The repeating layers of the same notes the piano plays quickly and then slows to half speed while the bass plays the same notes in a staggered timing. After several measures I then adjusted the overall key to the next note in the pattern. I then just improvised the flute part over the entire piece and had fun spacing out.
Although this did not come out of the experiment as it came before, it came to me, as many do, in a dream. As I awoke, I hummed the parts into my recorder so I could learn the song. It reminded me of India.