I have been trying, and failing, to write song-based music for a while, more seriously in the past few months. Aside from not having the time, energy or talent to make much of it, I keep falling back on that old Objective Strategy, honour thy mistake as hidden intention. Well, I wouldn’t say I honour my mistakes exactly, nor pass them off as hidden intention, but almost invariably the best music I’ve made is the result of mistakes, of starting with an idea, exploring too far, and winding up lost in the woods. Then I wake up in a pile of wet leaves hours later covered in millipedes clutching an idea with both hands, and I forget about what I was supposed to be working on in the first place.

A couple of weeks ago I was trying to write a simple leitmotif on piano in C# minor. This is the highfalutin way of saying I was clumsily mashing a tiny midi keyboard in C# minor with the damper pedal on, searching for something, anything usable. Then I switched to an electric piano sound. Then that noodling started to become cohesive in an exciting (but wrong) way, and before I knew where I was, I had drifted into something else entirely.

After some editing, stretching, harmonic processing, EQ, reverb etc, I found had an amorphous drone that was about 30 minutes long, in my lazy signature style. That’s a fairly arbitrary length. This thing could have been ten minutes long, it’d probably have had the same effect. But it’s not, because I’m an artist dammit! No actually, I kind of felt this one had a little more dynamic scope than some of my previous works in this vein and deserved more breathing room. Of course, part of me wanted to push Bandcamp’s time limit for uploaded tracks, which is around 28 minutes.

I dug through some old field recordings, found some cool stuff I got when I was on what should have been a steam train but was actually a diesel train, in the fine city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, avoiding my friends. Somehow that seemed to fit, so I edited that in at the front and back of the improvised drone, and all of a sudden I had a 27 minute song. It’s just that easy folks!

There are so many unfinished things that I should really work on, but I’m really good at finding reasons not to. Sometimes it’s more satisfying to fart out something in less than an hour that’s more enjoyable for me to listen to than the crap I’ve been working on and reworking for 4+ years. And this one turned out okay.

Anyway it’s on bandcamp now if you think that’s something that you might be into.

3 thoughts on “Chattanooga

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