Well here’s the ego-bath piece. I wrote the words and the music, played all the instruments except for drums, and I am the reader. In my plan for the Parlando project, this is not my goal, to be the sole reader or musician, nor do I intend to feature my own work entirely; but as a practical matter, it simplifies things considerably to do so.
I can easily settle the rights to material if it’s mine. Shaping the arrangement and feel and getting the musical parts down is easier to schedule when I only need to book myself. Of course I need to put up with my limitations as a musician, which can frustrate me as a composer, but I can often forgive my mistakes as long as I’m the only one in the room, as long as I’m the only one wasting my time or a “take”.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts here, I’m mostly a guitarist, but electronic synthesizers have always attracted me. I’m attracted to diversity in timbre (almost?) to a fault. When I first heard of electronic synthesizers I could hardly contain my wonder and envy at something that promised to make any sound that could be imagined. You could take a raw electronic wave and shape and filter it any which way. I recall trying to convince my father that this was a breakthrough.
“How is that different from a Hammond organ?” he replied.
That was a more trenchant response than I expected. I replied that it was more flexible, that the choices of what it could do with the waveform were endless.
“Any sound,” that was the tantalizing promise, but practically, I couldn’t afford an electronic syth. One of the reasons guitar grew to dominate American music in the 20th century is that it’s radically affordable. Costs for electronic synths eventually came down and now they can be sold as software capable of running on low cost personal computers (personal computers, another technology that offers infinite choice).
What have we done with infinity? In one way: not much. EDM and hip-hop composers will sometimes dip into the outer reaches of sound manipulation, and some of that reaches a substantial and welcoming audience willing to shout “WTF was that?” at a particularly out-there break. But for a lot of music, and Bonds is an example, musicians end up using presets, waveforms that usually sound like a nice rolling sine wave with some historically pleasing harmonic intervals emphasized. In other words, not too far from what a Hammond organ does.
In Bonds the keyboard synth part basically doubles and arpeggiates the electric guitar part. It’s a simple trick, but it’s one that I liked.
I started writing Bonds while my father was approaching dying. Mostly through accident of occupation I have been able to watch a lot of people die “a natural death.” One metaphor that fits the process in many cases is that dying is like birth in reverse. I don’t mean this, mainly, as some kind of new-agey “circle of life” superficial slogan, but rather that the physical travail, the way autonomic nature takes over the body, has striking similarities.
The words also play off the ambiguous relationship we have with the word “bonds”. We use “bonds” to mean family relationships, and the most close kind of connection between mother and infant (mother-child bonding). But we also use it when describing slavery and servitude (bondservant and the bonds of slavery) and more generally when describing moving beyond a limitation or obligation.
Preparing for a parent’s death is a way to prepare for your own death.
As always, you should see a player appear below this, though it may take a bit of time to appear. Click on the play triangle in the player to hear “Bonds.”