My personal feeling of accomplishment with The Monastery is marred only by an underscore of my lack of participation. I didn't produce the music, I didn't write the music, and I sure as hell didn't perform the music - and in just a couple of instances, I didn't even purchase the music! Not for lack of trying of course; I dabbled here and there with singing, looping, keyboarding...its just not anything I have the aptitude for. But it was the cover which most disappointed me - especially because of the flattering comments I received on it. You see, I didn't even make my own album art. And that was something I could do.
As a wanna-be photographer, I'm often struck by how dull North Texas can be as viewed through a camera - its a real struggle at times finding something to photograph in the eight short miles I traverse daily, and being a full-time employee and father of two doesn't lend itself to spontaneous whirlwind trips without a destination (though I have been considering a more "planned" weekend day-trips under the guise of family time for the secondary purpose of shooting new and and interesting places). What this barren place does provide me is fertile ground in which to flex my creativity To look in instead of looking out.
I had an idea for another mix. I don't usually have them this close together (annually thus far) especially with The Monastery having been such a personal success. I wanted something similar to The Monastery's opening track, "Mina's Photo" but in my mind the entire album should be haunting female vocals. Angels. Not the emotionally exempt masses from City of Angels nor the ethically anguished soldiers from Supernatural. No, I wanted other, less *strict* angels. Angels unconcerned with our morality. But I absolutely wanted to stay away from using rote phrases such as "dark" or "fallen" though in my mind these were just the sort of angelic beings who would give into consequence-free Earthly pleasures. An entire choir of angels here on earth, lamenting the sort of things they might lament, through song. But I was having difficulty getting started. I had all the songs save one - the first. That one song I needed to set the tone of the entire album.
Putting it all together is something which usually happens with a good measure of accident. I can't be expected to "plan" everything. Thankfully, I have someone both egregious and magnanimous both to collaborate with - myself! In a completely unrelated event (which is how these things often happen) I recently photographed the Wise County Courthouse on the square in Decatur, TX one early Sunday we were passing through to visit my folks. I shot it in HDR and wondered what it would look like in post-process grayscale High Dynamic Range. Spooky! Excepting the lackluster cloudless sky, which I overcame by adding a stormfront of low clouds I'd taken some months earlier, and a little contrast.
During this overly-lengthy album-creation process (as I was having the damnedest time getting all of the pieces together correctly) I sought wisdom in a multitude of council. While many of my thoughts surrounding the music were spent on the different transitions swashbuckler332 uses (emotional, instrumental, orchestral, metered, sharp, smooth) I had a co-worker notice the stark shadowing on the edifice and suggest the addition of a moon. Not only does this address the question of a light source, it simultaneously increases its spookiness factor! I ended up using my New Year's Moon to great effect - and true to course there's not an element yet I myself didn't create (though I will give a nod to the universe for providing me a moon to photograph). melancthe did her thing and with unquestionable authority helped me narrow down my title. She took my disorganized brainstorm and gave it order through a wealth of knowledge. Nothing was left to chance.
Something I wasn't sure if I could pull off at all was a re-working of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise" as sung by Kathleen Battle at Carnegie Hall. It was always in the original plan, but when I'd finished fleshing out the track list, it sounded a bit lackluster amongst the less traditional offerings. I'd recently acquired Wojciech Kilar's score to The Ninth Gate in a game of chance (I'm a huge fan of Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte) and after discovering the similarities in the eerie title track, "Vocalise" (sung by Korean opera star Sumi Jo) began a wholly frustrating assimilation of the two (you'll either love its spooky dissonance or hate is amateurish attempt at spooky dissonance as this is another area in which I have zero experience and perhaps even less aptitude).
But as the album art came together and the content languished, I found myself looking through DeviantArt at all the beautiful, beautiful half-naked emo angels. Oh to be able to express myself in such a manner! I really am so very impressed with just about everything I ran across there and many called to me. This ran contrary to my wish to have a completely self-photographed album cover, but I had no beautiful half-naked emo angel of my own. Or did I? De-saturating the portrait I took of my wife (Siren) made it look deceptively creepy (especially given that other-worldly expression she fixes us with) and using the only non-photographed element in the entire cover - the wings - I applied a radial blur to them to both draw attention away from their specificity and add to their alternate dimensionality (nothing freaks me out more than the whole unnaturally vibrating head thing in supernatural horror flicks). And while my undead bride versus previously holy messenger of God mash-up was coming along swimmingly, it definitely lacked that one constant I found on DeviantArt: Cut-your-wrist emo-style eyeshadow. Five minutes later, after a Google image seach for "gothic makeup" and a 50% gradient charcoal brush in Photoshop, my less-than-radiant wife looked as if she would just as soon eat my soul than sleep with me, and not necessarily in that order...in a word, "perfect."
Then it happened. That thing which always happens, whether I want it to or not, completely independent of my dependence upon it, or from it; Fate. I used to have all these elaborate reasons why I led a charmed life, but cosmically speaking, I can longer surmise. I just accept it now. Remember the coworker who suggested to me Greg Edmonson's score to Uncharted 2? Some people are placed around you for a reason - and just like the boy who could read prophesy in boxes of cereal in The Lady in the Water it doesn't matter if he knows why. He is here as my muse, nothing more. Of this I am convinced. Not knowing who he was listening to, or why - he mentioned to me the trailer music to The Social Network on YouTube. Knowing to trust his innocent hunches I delved into this and discovered the Belgium girls' choir "Scala & Kolacny Brothers." This was what I'd been waiting for. Waiting for and not even knowing it. This isn't just a new artist - or a new song - its completely new music as far as I'm concerned. The way it should be. Everything I've ever loved - my lifelong ostracization from society for my musical taste - it culminates here. And only now am I ready to proceed.
And nothing will ever be the same.