Snowman Made of Progress?

Okay this is more like it. After a significant period of limited musical development, Snowman Made of Mud has starting creative rumblings. Now that Homophonies is basically awaiting SAE facilities (apparently we’re not let loose in the studio till early next year) for completion, my thoughts have drifted towards my other long-neglected projects. Top of the list of course is Snowman Made of Mud, which used to be the only moniker I recorded under (boy things were simpler back then) and yet hasn’t been active for nearly two years.

The conceptual structure of the new Snowman Made of Mud work has been in place for longer than those two years though, so it’s about time I made a move on it. Unfortunately, for a long time, I had no understanding of how to realise these grand ideas. The last Snowman work, Diluvia, while I like some of the ideas on it, it ultimately fell well short of my plans for it. This time however, I’m beginning to gather the recording methodology required to move the new work forward.

Since my primary compositional interest for the past few years has been in drones and complex textures, I have somewhat drifted away from the early Snowman style, which was all midi-programmed, but my actual instrumental ability hasn’t really kept up with my ambition. Then suddenly I realised what the missing element was that would allow me to construct more complex pieces, without relying on performance chops I don’t have: Looping.

I’ve generally shunned looping recently because it’s very obviously the same thing repeating over and over. However, by developing a lot of textural loops, long stretches of drifting notes or ambivalent sounds, and layering these in complex arrangements, I seem to have found a way to create interest without the obvious repetition problem. Some of this has come through working on Homophonies, some of it from external influence.

In particular, two recent revelations for me have been the band Nadja, and the two contemporary composers Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt. In each instance, there is an emphasis on repetition. Nadja seems to be built entirely on a series of looping sections that drift in and out, huge layers of fuzzy guitar and bass drone that surrounds the more rhythmic elements. Philip Glass’ Solo Piano features, rather surprisingly, a single piano, playing repeating evolving melodies based on simple intervals – something that “Red Hands” (the first extended half of the new Snowman Made of Mud) was always intended to feature.

“Blacksun” (the second half) was intended to have a very polyrhythmic slant, but through Pärt’s sublime Fratres compositions (in all their various arrangements) I’ve begun to realise how this could work without necessarily being based on percussion as I had originally assumed. Not that Fratres is polyrhythmic in the least, but the delicate interplay between the instruments, each providing a simultaneous melodic and harmonic accompaniment to one other… This is pushing me towards developing almost a polymelodic composition, where the multiple simultaneous melodies drift between instruments without any one specific focal point. But who knows, that could fall apart when I remember my sense of melody is supremely awful.

So anyway, I expect to be working on this for some months to come, probably well into next year, along with the sister EP which I’ll go into detail about later. For now, primary focus is on the first piece Red Hands, whose ultra-complex first slow theme consists of the note Bb eventually resolving up to C. Try it on a piano. It sounds good, no? Play it slower. No, slower. Much slower…

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