Monday, April 18, 2011

Terramecha Part IV - Retrieval

I'm jumping over to Part II for today's song analysis, so I apologize in advance if you get confused as to what's going on. I'll try to be as clear as possible. At the bottom of this article I have posted the link to a rough draft of Retrieval.

Part I (Blood) of Terramecha deals with a spaceman/spaceship that are hired to track down the source of a mysterious beacon in the far reaches of space. They take off from home base, see a few things, have a few encounters, and are ultimately killed ala "planet collision" after they have discovered the source of the beacon (Terramecha). This is where part I, Blood, ends.

Part II, entitled Rust, is a look into the world of Terramecha. First, I should probably explain the Blood/Rust relationship (as if it isn't pretty obvious). The first half of the album deals with an organic lifeform as the protagonist, most likely a human, and blood represents the aftermath of his death. The same goes with rust, being the results of a dead machine. This dichotomy also plays into the general Gel-Sol universe, Gel-Sol being a dichotomy too (liquid vs. solid). In case you didn't know, I generally try to implement this dichotomy strategy into a bulk of the Gel-Sol material. Organic vs. mechanical, beats vs. ambience, serious vs. funny, minor vs. major, etc. My goal in general with the Gel-Sol project is to create my own universe, full of different worlds and systems that allow me to make whatever I want, yet still being a part of the Gel-Sol world. I pursued this idea, because I think conforming to one genre of music is stupid and does not allow for any artistic longevity. Plus, doing one thing is fucking boring, and it's good to keep your listeners on their toes!

Retrieval begins with some sort of scout robot appearing on the surface of Terramecha to check out the spaceship wreckage. Then, a giant door opens in Terramecha where hundreds (if not more) of machines emerge from inside the planet, all being somewhat unique, but still classifiable into groups. I want to convey that these machines are similar to humans, not physically (bi-peds with 2 eyes and 10 fingers), but in the sense that there's different races, and perhaps cultures. After surrounding the fallen spaceship, the machines, in perfect rhythm and order, join together to form a giant transport around the spaceship so it can be taken below for examination. The scene ends with Terramecha slowly swallowing the spaceship/transport with the previously mentioned scout robot following behind, making it through the door just before it closes.

The version of Retrieval below is a very rough draft, with some structural elements laid out to give an idea of how the piece will progress. It starts off with some abstract ambience/sound effects, and mechanical rhythms fade in to convey some sort of order amongst the machines. The rhythms gradually get more intense with the addition of a pulsing sub-bass to convey the merging machines, and then music breaks, gets its bearings, and trudges along, depicting the spaceship being transported below the surface. As I mentioned before, there's a scout robot that initially checks out the situation, ok's the rest of the machines to retrieve the wreckage, and follows the transported spaceship back below the surface. Musically, I'd like to depict this little guy, but I'm not sure how I'm going to approach it yet. Does he make little R2-D2 noises? Does he sound like Wall-E? Do these things even have voices? Maybe they speak in tones. I guess I got a lot to think about.

A lot of the parts in Retrieval were created using various Reaktor ensembles and random midi generation, mainly from the Reaktor ensemble Spiral. Spiral uses variations on a spiral pattern to create random patterns that can be conformed to a specific key, allowing you to create anything from long flowing soundscapes to super-fast arpeggios. You can even trigger sample banks or drum kits, making for some interesting results. I used this technique extensively on my last ambient album, K8EMA. Most of the time, I wasn't even concerned about the harmonic material being triggered by Spiral. I just made a lot of noise, tuned it where necessary, and hit record. I then mixed those recordings together in a serendipitous fashion, where everything appeared to work out (I'm making it sound a lot easier than it really is). Retrieval has actually been played in two or three of my live sets, but under the name Spores. When I first started writing the piece, I initially thought this piece would have to do with the eventual downfall of the machines inside Terramecha, rusting out and dying due to the organic spores that grew out of the spaceman's blood. I then decided this particular piece of music was much more suited for a retrieval mission.

So, what does the spaceship look like? I don't know that yet either. In Lem's The White Death, the spaceship is described as a "giant goblet, its stem embedded in a pile of boulders and its concave cup, which faced the sky, crushed and punctured in a dozen places." This description gives the sense that the ship has a classic "rocket" look, with the main engine taking up most of it's mass, and located in the back of the ship. Spaceship design has evolved quite a bit since the early 70s, so I'm not sure if this classic shape is what I have in mind for this story. I'm not sure it matters at this point, but I do think about it. What I do know is that the spaceship is relatively in one piece, to show the impressive merging of the machines into one unit so they can effectively transport the spaceship below the surface for evaluation. I like to think of this mechanical merging as a sort of "modular Transformer," where many machines can combine to make a custom mega-machine to suit their needs.

Stay tuned for my next blog! Not sure what I will talk about next. Perhaps I will go over another less-developed tune...

Feedback welcome as always! Drop me a line!
Terramecha: Retrieval - draft 041811 by Gel-Sol

Yer Pal,

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