Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Crystalize - Images and Soundscape

Inspiration and creativity are strange things. You cannot summon them - they summon you. It was like that with a song I started back in 1998, which at that time had a working title of 'Burn'. Musically, it came together very quickly - the driving pulse beat, the soaring screaming lead lines, the headlong rush of it. I'd finished re-reading my favourite William Gibson story, The Winter Market (one of the short stories in Burning Chrome) - and the intensity of that experience was literally ringing in my ears. There are some great scenes in that story, and the one I wanted to capture was this one:

"It's like you're on this motorcycle at midnight
No lights but somehow you don't need them,
Blasting out along a cliff-high stretch of coast highway
So fast that you hang there in a cone of silence
The bike's thunder lost behind you.
Everything, lost behind you
Freedom and death. Razor's edge. Forever.
Exploding eight ways from Sunday into the void."
-- Copyright © William Gibson

How can you not be inspired by that amazing piece of writing? So the music came together remarkably quickly. The lyrics on the other hand, were hell to write. Gibson's work had set the bar so high, but I did not want to infringe his copyright. After 16 re-writes, I finally gave up. It was only after re-reading the story again much later that I hit upon a different approach.

The story begins with the protagonist on a concrete ledge, trying to decide whether to leap into the icy waters below, watching the snow flakes spiral into the water and dissolve. The more I thought about this image, the more I realized how complete the symbolism of it was. The analogy between a person's life and that of a snowflake. where your soul coalesces out of the vapour of becoming, crystalizing along the DNA seed crystal. As a human, we grow and develop, slowly reaching our potential, until we once again hit the open water of the ocean, and dissolve back into it to rise again once more as vaporous potential. This became new genetic material for the lyrics, spiraling around the motorcycle imagery which blasts you along that coast highway. I didn't want the song to be about death, but about life - so I flipped the image and revelled in our flight as we soar into the sunrise, and the night highway of the music also suddenly is lit up like a ribbon by the morning sun. With the new lyrics, I felt it had to rework the original soundscape, breaking through standard song structures to sound fresh and new. What finally geled the lyrics with the music was using voice with echo as an instrument to create the right ethereal soaring feeling.
So after all that frustration and struggle, what do I have to show for it? Well, at least I don't feel the pressure of responding to that particular summons now. Whether it is any good or not is up to others to decide. I really feel like I grew a lot as a musician in the creation of this song, and for me that's the main reward. Hope you like it:

Crystalize.mp3 (2:42, 3.7MB) is available for free download from http://music.download.com/dreamingintechnicolor