This record was made between 2010 and 2011 as Angelo and I wanted a new outlet for making music that was not The Building or In One Wind. In particular, we wanted something that would push us to write differently, get us to think about putting together a song differently. Around this time we were also both being defeated by a few books by writer and monk, Thomas Merton. Using these books as a catalyst for lyrical content seemed an appropriate way to get ourselves writing outside our own perspective and spending more engaged time with the texts. The books, in particular No Man Is an Island, deal largely with self transformation, which is what we were trying to achieve in this process; letting outside circumstances change our level of comfort and decision making process.
Around this time, Angelo had shared with me artist William Kentridge’s stop motion films; which are created through a process of drawing, erasing, redrawing, erasing… which led me to share Anton Bruhin’s vocal piece, “In Out”, which is made through a musically complimentary process of using a recorder to grab segments of sound and piece them together without attack or decay. These two artists helped us settle on how to go about recording. We figured it would be best to just start recording rather than start by writing the material first. Most started with a simple idea. We would record each part into Angelo’s digital voice recorder, listening to a metronome's pulse coming to us via an earbud. Using this method, we could not hear previous takes or sections when recording. So rather than record in a linear way, we more or less just gathered one sample at a time, which we would later organize and assemble. Everything was done quickly without too much re-consideration. Sometimes the lyrics would be written while performed; improvisations on a few pages from the books. For some, we’d flip to a page and start reading the words out of order while writing them down. In the case of “The Poverty of Death”, the melody was improvised to pre-written lyrics, and each part was layered as it was recorded. In short, the song has 24 voices and took 24 takes to complete. Each time we would work on a new song, the time spent actually playing and recording was only about three hours. However, the editing and arranging of these samples was a much longer, grueling process.
I was sharing some of this music with a friend and he asked how this project brought us closer to Merton’s writing. I had no answer because I hadn’t considered it. Although we had been spending so much time with his words, it seems we were attempting to understand these dense verses by futile means. Taking them out of context, rearranging them into almost nonsense. However, if we were to go to the pages of the source material, I believe we’d find these songs have the same sentiment. The ideas don’t get lost totally, but are translated into this abstract vernacular, which still carries the weight of the original text. But whether or not the text’s integrity is intact or not is not so important I think. The process did draw us to Merton’s work and message. We pushed ourselves to do things that were not natural, not instinctual. Which is what is found a lot in Merton’s books; that our instincts about how to love and our spiritual character are not the only way, just because they are the first or easiest. That level of engagement is a lot of work and is usually counter-intuitive and unselfish.
released 17 June 2012
Made by Angelo Spagnolo & Anthony LaMarca
All images by Angelo Spagnolo
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