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Everybody Falling


(This is a medium-resolution MP3 (4.6 mgs), for faster download on slower systems.)

© copyright 2003 AP Durkee. All Rights Reserved.
Recorded at Dragon's Weyr Studio, St. Paul, MN,
February 2 thru February 4, 2003.
Arthur Durkee: Chapman Stick™, countertenor, Moog Prodigy.
Duration: circa 6:40



Everybody Falling

Everybody falling
falling down

falling from the blue
falling too

sinking down
into the sea
into the ground

strange luck

Everybody falling
falling too

fall too far
fall too fast

sink into the sun
arms spread out
sink into the past

strange footprint

Everybody falling
rising up

rise again
rising into the blue

everybody falling, falling
rising too


(poem copyright 2003 AP Durkee. All Rights Reserved.)



Notes on the Process

I. (February 3, 2003)

Emerson: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

So, going back on my previous statement about needing some time to do a memorial piece for the Columbia shuttle disaster, I just finished laying down the basic tracks for a piece. It just came out tonight, more or less fully formed. An elegy, titled Everybody Falling.

And I mean everybody, because when something like this happens, we all fall, too; it affects the whole of humanity, not only because of the scientific work that had been on this Shuttle mission, but because of the loss of life, and the increasingly international nature of the space program. Which is as it should be, because space is for everyone, and anyone, who wants to go there. Eventually our children or grandchildren will live there as naturally as we do on the planet now. But now, in these still-early days of our venturing into space, all those who leave the atmosphere, even temporarily, are courageous pioneers. When the voyagers and pioneers fall, we all lose a little something. For awhile, until we pick up again and go on. Space is where we belong, and will eventually live.

Four Stick tracks, four vocal layers, so far. Something unusual for me, in that it's a song. Very simple text. A plain 12/8 cycle. Even a Stick "guitar" solo between verses. My usual natural length for a piece, around 6 and a half minutes; dunno why, maybe it's the theta rhythm, and many of my pieces seem to fall into the 6.5 to 7.5 minutes range. Yours truly, bargain counter tenor. (Blame the movie "Orlando," which I recently finally saw all the way through on video, and the prominence of countertenor Jimmy Sommerville in several small parts throughout the film, including singing on-camera. I'd love to get a real countertenor to record this some day!) Not that I've ever claimed to have a great voice, but in the absence of anyone else present, I can at least lay down the tracks. Compose as you go, transcribe later.

Having laid the basic tracks down, I need to sleep on it, listen to it a few more times, decide if it needs anything else, decide if the vocal tracks are good enough, or if I need to re-do them, mix it all down, and master it. Mixing will be a slow process, because the vocal parts are scattered in bits and pieces of best takes on several tracks.

Maybe it's the snow that's been falling here all day and all night long; our first real winter storm here in Minnesota, late in the season, and promising to continue snowing into the afternoon tomorrow. Watching all that snow falling, thinking about falling from orbit, floating down, sinking; and rising up. Everything that falls must rise.

Maybe there's a little of a 9/11 lament in here, too, and a Challenger lament, and other things, too, all tied up in bamboo shoots for the poet to carry away on his narrow road to the interior. It's not that I can't separate the strands, if I really chose to, but I don't see much point. Maybe it's an elegy for everybody falling, whoever has fallen, wherever, and whenever. Something universal, inspired by the particular.

Maybe it's that it's Brigid today, the first return of the sun in the old festival cycle. Over six inches of clean, fresh snow already, and more on the way. Maybe it's that I love the silence that snowfall gives to the world. When I was a kid, I used to open a window during a blizzard, to listen to the silence; to listen to the quiet tick-tick of snowflakes hitting the roof, the hiss of snow crystals being blown by wind-gusts across the street, like sand over dunes. But mostly, the quiet that muffles all the usual night sounds, an acoustic blanket.

II. (February 6, 2003)

Choosing countertenor range for the vocals seems natural in hindsight, although I didn't plan it up front. Also, the idea of a melodic line starting very high, then falling, falling, and only rising up again on the words "rising" in the last stanza. Again, unplanned, but fitting and natural. The Stick lines rise and fall against each other throughout, creating for me a sensation of being pulled in many directions simultaneously. I dunno. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, after the fact.

I re-recorded most of the vocal tracks, trying for better performances, and hopefully achieving some. I wanted this to be the best that I can do at this time. I cleaned up some crackles and pops that had crept in when recording the basic tracks. I also added a very simple, one-note filter-modulated synth line, done on Moog Prodigy; tuning those old analog synths is a long process, but the sounds you get are so very worth it. The Moog line introduces the vocal entrance on each of the three verses; I needed something that swelled up to the voice entrance, that prepared it, so that the first verse especially was prefigured, rather than appearing out of nowhere.

I feel like this piece is a finished, composed piece now, although this recording is not necessarily definitive. I am tempted to notate a voice and piano arrangement, and publish that here, too.

Overall, I'm pleased with the result. That sense of falling, falling, rising, falling, overlapping motion, sensations of weightlessness, of freefall, sinking, comes through. The creative process felt effortless.

I'm also noticing that I've been on an accelerating curve of recording new music this past month. "Kanjo" and "Rumi's Tambourine" are two other pieces I did as quickly and effortlessly as Everybody Falling. Some sort of purpose feels at work here, although I can't put a name to it, as yet. Mystery happens.


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