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Map of the Universe

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Inspiration and Composition:

Several things were happening at once…

Being a fan of space, I was poring over those magnificent photos of deep, distant space. Very small and very large things began to look alike, which always helps keep perspective in life. Those tiny specks were stars, or even whole galaxies, and here they were just little dots on a page. What if you had this night sky tattooed on your skin? What if it was already? What if those little dots were a map? What if they were music?

Deep distant secret: my third musical purchase was “Big Bam Boom” by Hall & Oates. Although I left that phase for the greener pastures of Zeppelin-dom soon enough, years later during my prog days I stumbled upon a strange Robert Fripp produced Daryl Hall solo record called “Sacred Songs”. It definitely belonged to the wonderful category of cool music that shouldn’t exist. When the record surfaced again in 2011 there was a groove on “Babs and Babs” that stuck in my ear and I began to wrap a bass line around it.

Tiny dots next to each other: Every now and then I dabble with Leo Brouwer “Simple Etudes”. That guy REALLY knows how to write for the guitar. His voicings intrigued me and over several weeks I started compiling playable cluster voicings. Something clicked when I wrote them down… here in front of me where these little dots a whole step apart, or the map of the stars, or freckles on your skin.

The song began at as a bass line, traveling from the lovely B- home base up to the exotic Cma7(#11) region and back. I added the cluster voicings, and then found after repeat, it led away to the E- bridge, and then, suddenly bright as hell, into the gem of my cluster collection, an Ema7 expressed D# E F# G# over E. A moment followed in the C section to pause and reflect (and in performance, turn off effects).

Recording:
An effected ebow line nicknamed “Sputnik” begins the song and travels around for awhile to set the tone. Aside for some adjustments in register, I gave the horns the cluster-y melody that I had written. I was very excited to hear if the three lines only a step apart sounded as machine-like as I imagined. The guitar solo is as originally tracked, although I went back in after and built two different effects chains, the first a hazy ring-modded sound and the second a hyper chorus-y wiggle. I changed effects between different phrases to give it a sense of call and response, and in the transition moments fed little bits of guitar lines to be transposed up an octave. The horn “sound cloud” after the guitar solo gave me chills when we recorded it… one of my favorite moments on the record! Greg gets to shine on tenor during the melody out, and we returned to the sound cloud nebula-like haze to finish the song.

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