A Dream From Before
I appear to be releasing an album, and not a classical one. If I had known this 18 months ago, I probably would have been very surprised - but suffice to say that the past 18 months have significantly broadened my interests in music, as well as given me a bit more of a push to actually do significant things. For me (and certainly for a lot of other people too) leaving university put me into a strange new world of work. Gone was the motivation to study hard and earn good marks to be replaced by the need to work hard and earn a living. Throughout my last year at university I composed, played and studied so much variety in music that I really realised properly for the first time that although I have primarily a classical background, that doesn’t mean I always need to stick to it. Furthermore, when I was much younger (as in, around 10 years old), I used to use loop-based electronic music making software and come up with my own little tunes, and so actually, this album isn’t too far removed from that ‘dream from before’ (see what I did there?). In fact, my classical background is arguably why I did this in the first place - I had no previous knowledge of how to use Logic Pro (which this was entirely done with) and had never even considered mixing and mastering music before, so I thought I’d learn how to do all of this from scratch and create something exciting as a result.
It sounds a little bit strange to say, but there was a time when this album could have turned out as some sort of novel. I definitely wanted to find my way of telling a story, and I had what I will call the emotional blueprint of one in my head ready to do something with. The idea centred around a character (or maybe the listener/composer/performer in this instance…) searching for something and eventually getting so bogged down with wanting that real-life becomes insignificant and unappreciated. I won’t be too specific about how I feel this album fits into that, as I really want each person that listens to it to get what they actually get from it rather than trying to fit that into the mould of what they think they should be listening out for. All I’ll say is that I’ve tried to give the sense of creating new worlds, dreaming up ideas and becoming self-centred and lost, as well as an eventual realisation of becoming lost in a sort of spiral. I hope that the music will give you a sense of these things, too, and I’d be really interested to hear what people take away from it.
I’ll end by very briefly going over each of the 9 tracks on the album and talking a little bit about what went into them and some of the musical ideas. It’s up to you whether you want to read this at all - but I always find it interesting to learn this about other people’s music - so here you are!
A Dream - This is what you might call the ‘theme’ of the album. In pretty much every track, something from this track is used in a different form. I like to think that if the album were a TV show, this might be the theme music to go with some sort of opening sequence - at least that’s the vibe I was going for.
Goodnight - I accidentally stumbled on something quite musically interesting here, in that it’s in E major, but we don’t hear that until a long way through. Instead it’s quite broody and mysterious to start with. For me, this was a technical exercise in building from very little to something eventually very powerful. It’s also the first track to feature Liam Johnson on the guitar (the others are tracks 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8.). I also owe quite a bit to Brahms for this one…
Take Your Pick - You know in Bojack Horseman where something ridiculous is going on at a high pace and they have this kind of funky soundtrack to give both the impression of overwhelm and being ‘totally in control’? That’s sort of what I was going for here. I wanted to create something in a bit of a different style to the rest of the album to give it a bit of variety and unpredictability.
Blank Canvas - The brief to myself was pretty much to have as much going on as possible here, and I’m really happy with the result, it’s really fun. It’s also full of musical ideas I’ve had bouncing around my head for some time as a cello piece (with the bass line rising by step and the secondary melody line falling by step, but slightly out of sync with the bass), however I turned it into this - and it seems to have found its natural home! It deals with the idea of having total creative freedom.
In Somnis Veritas - Here, my aim was to create something that would be mostly very much at home in the background of a film, for example. I have used ideas from minimalism to build tension and unpredictability as there is a 3/4 time signature, however depending on where the newest part places emphasis, it sometimes feels like 6/8, which has a different feel. As it develops, new harmonies are added until we reach a climax about 2/3 of the way in.
A Niche In The Temple - This is one of the first tracks where it’s especially apparent that I’ve used musical ideas from previous tracks. While totally its own thing, dealing with, perhaps, the idea of getting too big for your boots (for want of a more eloquent phrase), this track also links to track 3 in terms of musical ideas and track 4 in terms of form. I quite like thinking of this as a bit of a comic-book superhero type thing.
Sand - I’m super happy with this, as it was my least favourite when I first wrote it and now it’s one of my absolute favourites. It taught me a lot of valuable lessons in mixing in a really satisfying way. All I will say about this track is that it aims to capture a sense of reflection while at the same time remaining busy and glistening.
From Before - This is one of those tracks that exists because of the rest of the album, and very much fits into the ‘storytelling’ aspect of the album as a whole. As in some symphonies, I’ve brought earlier themes back here into what is essentially a ‘finale’ track.
You Slept (For a Time) - This is a sort of coda and reflection on real-life, the thing that had been left behind throughout the rest of the album. The main melody here emerges out of some seeds that are sewn in the very first track, but take on a bit of a life of their own here. It’s all left quite ambiguous, and that’s what I really wanted to do here - I want the listener to question where the album finished in comparison to where it started and why, and what it might mean to them.
To listen for yourself, you can get the album, ‘A Dream From Before’ by Benjamin P Jackson from iTunes or Bandcamp on 22nd April 2019.