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MORPHEUS MUSIC INTERVIEW - LONGING FOR ORPHEUS

30.10.09 - on release of OtherSong

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Q: What is your musical background?
 

I grew up in a very Classically-oriented home. My parents started me in piano lessons pretty early - I was probably about 9 or 10. I stuck with those through most of my undergraduate college years, though there were certainly some rough patches, and I didn't remotely keep up with the skill level of the piano majors. I started singing mid-way through high school, and have since sang in a number of choirs, both college and community, taken lessons from a number of opera and musical theater specialists, and performed in a number of musicals and operettas in the Austin, Texas area. Though I had been a fan of electronic music since my early teens, my first experience making electronic music was performing with some college friends in an Industrial band by the name of Guild (which is still going strong, but out in California). Those guys introduced me to software sequencers, and I used the internet to learn about songwriting, sound design, and audio engineering from there.

  Q:  Why did you choose your particular style of music?   Enigma and Vangelis were some of my early favorite artists. When I first got my hands on a synthesizer, I tried to figure out and emulate what they were doing. I ended up pretty far off the mark, but that led to the initial New Age sound of Longing for Orpheus. In the end, I ended up pursuing multiple styles of music, (Synthpop as "Ice Queen Alias" and Trance as "Artificial Emotion"), but New Age and Ambient are what come most naturally to me.
   
             
Q:  When you set out to record your second album – what were you
intending to achieve?
 

I wanted to develop a better understanding of song structure - that is, traditional verse/chorus song structure, and how bridges, middle 8s and all the other little pieces fit together. Initially, I intended to incorporate vocals into most of the songs, but as I kept writing, I found that I had a good collection of instrumentals. I don't know if the verse/chorus nature of the finished songs is obvious without lyrics to draw attention to them, but that's definitely how most of OtherSong's tracks are structured, and I'm happy with what I learned and how it turned out.

  Q: How does the album sound now that you have it complete and on the
shelves? Any special thoughts?
 

I have an extremely hard time getting sufficient mental distance to sit back and enjoy my music - that's an unfortunate side effect of listening to something a hundred or more times during the writing and mixing process. As time passes, I'm able to stop fixating on little imperfections and begin appreciating the music again, but I fear that's going to be at least a year out for OtherSong.

             
Q:   How do you write and record your music – what comes first, what
last?
 

Regardless of what else I have going on in my life, I try to take at least 15 minutes a day to just play around in the studio, which usually means firing up a softsynth to a random preset and experimenting. I usually start an idea or two, save them and walk away. If I start something I really like, I may go ahead and work on it for a while, but in general I develop of a large library of short ideas, listen to them with fresh ears later, and develop those that seem most promising. For me, the whole process is experimentation-based. Every sound, chord, and melody is arrived at by trying different sounds, different rhythms, etc., until something fits. In writing instrumentals, I don't consciously choose a melody instrument during the writing process - rather, I write a number of compatible musical lines, and I end up making one of them dominant during the mixing process. OtherSong is an instrumental album, but when I do write songs with vocals, I approach lyrics and melodies very differently. I keep a lyrical ideas folder, comparable to my musical ideas folder, and when a song is mostly written, I look through my lyrics for anything that fits the mood of the song. Then, I'll try to write a melody that matches that works with both the music and the lyric. I actually prefer to collaborate with singers who write their own lyrics and melody, but when I do it all myself, that's how it works.

  Q:  What goes on in your studio – what gear and recording techniques do
you enjoy?
 

I love synthesizers, and I've moved almost exclusively to software synthesizers, since they make it so easy to save and recall sounds, and automate parameters. I've been using the Korg Legacy Collection the longest, and it's represented on OtherSong, but what I probably use the most now are synths by Native Instruments, primarily Absynth, FM8, and Massive. I also use a few freeware synths; there's one called String Theory by UGO that I always have a rough time getting to sit nicely in a mix, but I love the character of its sound too much to give it up - that's the lead, guitar-ish sound on EverSoul.

As far as acoustic instruments go, I have a bit of a Tin Whistle obsession. I consider using them in practically every song - CloverLight uses both a Low D and a Standard D whistle - but I restrain myself most of the time. NeverTale actually incorporates a Navajo flute and some Djembe patterns - I used "studio magic" to record these, making a bunch of takes and splicing together the best part for the end recording. This isn't really typical to my process, but it was a lot of fun, and I hope to incorporate more acoustic elements into future albums.

             
 
   
 
Q:  What inspires you to make music – both overall and when it comes to
beginning a specific track?
 

I try to remain aware of two truths at all times. First, each of us has a limited time on earth - its easy to get complacent in our day-to-day lives, since they can get so repetitive, but there ARE a set number of them, so we'd better make the best use of them we can. Second, we are living in an age of unprecedented wealth, in terms of physical comforts, technology, and communication. Since I have the means and the time to create things - art - I feel obligated to take advantage of the opportunity. I realize that makes artistic creation sound like a burden...but if I didn't love music, I would find something that I DID love, and do something creative in that field. On a song by song basis, I think inspiration as it relates to the creative process is terribly overrated and misunderstood. I continually experiment and play around in the studio, and when I stumble onto an idea I like, I get excited and start developing it into a song. Excitement may overlap with inspiration here, but I find that I come up with both good and bad ideas when I'm feeling inspired, and when I'm not.

 

  Q:  Are you involved in the visual side of your project – if so how?  

I do nearly everything related to Longing for Orpheus myself. I did the design and layout work for OtherSong and the current website, but I started with some beautiful photographs by Claudia Meyer (for the album), George Bosela and Sara Nevalainen (for the site), which they made freely available through the stock.xchng repository. In doing this type of design work, I've become familiar with The GIMP (sort of a freeware Photoshop), and that in turn has led me to a new respect for, and interest in, the visual arts. I think there's real value in trying your hand at many things in life - even though you may not want to dedicate a lot of time to each of them, it can lead you to truly appreciate the breadth and depth of what so many other people out there are doing and accomplishing.

             
Q:  Where would you like to go musically if you could fulfil your
greatest ambitions?
 

I think it would be a lot of fun to write for a project like Lesiem, where you integrate music with the magic of the theater. I think Wagner was really onto something good with the whole "Gesamtkunstwerk" concept. I'm actively involved with a number of community theater companies, which is probably why this appeals to me. By the same token, it would be tremendous fun to compose for a Cirque Du Soleil show.

  Q:  What comes next for Longing For Orpheus?   

I have a few songs started in a more Ethereal, Ambient Pop vein - I hope to find some more vocalists, likely from the Classical voice community here in Austin, and make an album in the Delerium tradition. There have been quite a few very good albums in that subgenre recently (Blue Stone and Sleepthief are prime examples), so right now I'm focused on finding a way to say something musically interesting in that area without just rehashing what other artists have already done.

 

Thanks to Derek for allowing us that interview.

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