Sunday, March 8, 2015

Circadian Rhythm Disorder

The new At War With Self project, Circadian Rhythm Disorder, is now available as a digital only release. It's been four years in the making, and is 24 tracks composed to a 51-minute improvised drum solo by Marco Minnemann (his 'Normalizer 2' project).

Here's a preview MP3 - you can also listen to disc in it's entirety using the player below.

Glenn Snelwar - guitars, fretless bass, mandolins, keys
Marco Minnemann - drums

Circadian Rhythm Disorder is the culmination of four years of writing, recording, re-writing, analysis, re-analysis, discarding, re-building, re-evaluation and final culmination of compositions based on the framework of a 51 minute drum solo performed in a single take by Marco Minnemann.

Marco’s Normalizer 2 project is based on musicians of varied backgrounds and styles composing their ideas to his drum solo. I first heard of the Normalizer project back in 2010 when the first ‘set’ of releases came out, and was intrigued with the notion of compositions based on a drum solo. In 2011, I purchased the solo –initially, with the intention of listening to the drums on their own. As impressive as the Normalizer releases were that I’d heard, I really wanted to absorb every nuance of the kit – every cymbal hit and ghost note. I’ve always been fascinated with drum solos. So, after multiple listens, I decided to see what would happen if I began on it very slowly.

I learned the various stops and starts in the rhythms for the first three minutes by listening over and over (and over, and over – and over again). Watching the waveforms on the computer to see where the cymbal or snare hits would occur quickly became a familiar activity. The three note melodic phrase Marco uses with the cymbals resonated with me immediately.  Similar to how that cymbal phrasing is re-introduced throughout the solo, I wanted to create melodic variations that could be re-introduced throughout. More important, I realized after writing to the first three minutes I may be able to compose something cohesive…something that ran like a continuous thread from beginning to end, much like the solo. By re-visiting melodic ideas introduced earlier in the composition, and drawing on my own prior compositions (variations on the melodic and rhythmic elements of Reflections most likely to come to mind), I slowly pieced the 51 minutes together. It was analogous to a musical jigsaw puzzle. I’ve always loved concept albums, and this needed to be a 51 minute long story.

During the process, I scrapped entire sections – sometimes weeks or months of composing and recording, and started sections  again from scratch – if the pieces didn’t line up and create that continuity and bigger picture (that ultimately was more important than the sum of the parts),  the bigger picture had to be the final determining factor no matter how satisfied I may have been with a small segment of the section in question.

This all sounds very deliberate and analytical. And, that is the case in the context of describing what my goal was. But, there is a reason this took four years (aside from having to learn the rhythms before starting to compose, and then following through with executing technically on my ideas). Most importantly, Marco’s drum solo was a creative burst that was recorded in ONE TAKE!!! During the entire time I was composing to this, I never wanted to forget that. And, as structured as the compositions are that you have in front of you, I made it a point to ALWAYS approach composing with that blank slate – to listen and come up with ideas as if I’d heard the drums for the first time – and to compose to capture that inspiration inherent in the drums, and so that the prior and subsequent sections would be seamless with the section in progress.

Circadian Rhythm Disorder is an apt title to capture my experience with this project – many sleepless nights, and time being broken up into bits and pieces –often times spending weeks on 3-5 minute sections at a time. Maybe that section was the first 5 minutes of the drum solo, followed by the last 5 minutes of the solo- and then following up with drafting the musical puzzle pieces to see what path they could take to connect to each other.

Often times, bursts of composing happened during vacations to visit family, where a precious couple of hours spent before or after everyone else was awake resulted in a rough draft – a 30 second section of inspiration that would become something more concrete back at home. Sitting in the car during a lunch break at work and critiquing the final mixes through the stereo, headphones or computer speakers. Composing, recording and mixing all in piecemeal, but remembering to focus on the big picture at all times. Trying to balance time spent between composing and then practicing what I’d written to be able to record the different instruments. Waking up to go to work with the desire to finish a section that was started a few hours ago and still fresh in my mind, and not wanting to let go of that creative spark. Learning how to keep the computer from crashing under the weight of all of the tracks - and refraining from throwing it through the wall when it did (often times, right in the middle of a creative burst of ideas).  Having to defer plans for recording or composing to do unexpected car or house repairs. Truly, a persistent state of being at war with self. This has been the most difficult but rewarding experience I’ve had with writing and recording my music.

I am extremely grateful to Marco for recording his solo and putting it out there for myself and others to compose to.  And most of all, I am indebted to my family - for understanding my need to subject all of us to my self-imposed CRD.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Projects in the Queue

Once again, a much delayed post. But, I do have news on some projects coming up. First will be my take on Marco Minnemann's Normalizer project. I thought this was a really interesting idea, when I first heard of various musicians composing their own music over Marco's 51 minute drum solo he had recorded in one take. I was busy working on the surround mix for Torn Between Dimensions, and started writing to the first couple of minutes of the solo, just to take a break from re-visiting the first AWWS disc over (and over). Two years later, I've managed to compose to the whole thing - it has been an incredibly challenging and rewarding way to write new music! I'll be finishing tracking over the next couple of months, and hope to be finished early next year with it. For more info, check out Marco's Normalizer page.

The 5.1 Torn Between Dimensions mix will still happen - but the Normalizer project has become my primary focus for now.

I also have the next At War With Self project ideas lined up, and have started writing for that. Manfred Dikkers (AWWS - Acts of God and A Familiar Path) and Alex Arellano (Power of Omens, The Fractured Dimension) will both be on the drums. Without giving too much away, I can say it will be much more focused on polyrhythms and odd time signatures than the past three discs, for sure. I'm really excited to work with Manfred and Alex on the next AWWS disc. There will likely be other guest musicians as well.

I also just finished recording some guitar and mandolin parts for multi-instrumentalist Hassan Iqbal, whose project will have quite a line-up. Check out the info on his Facebook site!

I think that's it for now - thanks for reading! More to come in a few months...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Logical Song

Another very, very long overdue post. Progress is ongoing but slow...eventually the Torn 5.1 will see the light of day. Writing is also in progress for what will be the next AWWS release. In the meantime, here's another cover  - The Logical Song, by Supertramp. As with prior/future covers, Manfred is providing the drums and percussion.

The Logical Song (mp3 at 320 kbps)

Also visit my Soundcloud page for other tracks and the Invisible Sun cover.

At War With Self facebook page

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's been too long since I've posted an update here. Things have been progressing very, very well with the 5.1 mix of Torn Between Dimensions...and the additional acoustic versions that will go along with it. It will be a bit longer, but hopefully not too much longer!!! I am anticipating having it released the first half of this year. I recently broke one of the fingers on my left hand, so that will certainly slow things down for a while as I try to finish up the acoustic versions.
I have worked on a few cover tunes to take a break from the 5.1 work, and here is one of the covers that Manfred Dikkers kindly provided drums tracks for - one of my favorite Police tracks, Invisible Sun. A couple more covers are in the works.
I've also posted this and the free full preview tracks from each of the At War With Self discs over on Soundcloud - you can also listen and download them on the main site here as well. And check out the AWWS Facebook page if that's your thing.
Thanks again to all of you who have purchased A Familiar Path over the past couple of years - as well as Acts of God and Torn Between Dimensions - more to come in a few months, for certain.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reflecting on Torn Between Dimensions

I figured a new post here was way overdue. First off, thanks to all of you who have purchased my CDs and supported this project - At War With Self is at this time a self-financed, independent operation and every CD sale that comes in is truly appreciated!!! It helps me continue to justify releasing physical CDs. Also, many thanks to the people who take the time to listen carefully to the disc and write a review. Without this sort of support, the pressing and distribution of physical copies of the discs would not be possible.

The end of 2010 allowed me time to think about the course of this project, and what should be next - I am extremely satisfied with the end result of A Familiar Path. For me it really brings together the ideas of merging classical guitar and metal that I had when I first trusted my instinct to combine the styles the way I like to do, and write Reflections back in '94. A Familiar Path is an appropriate title for me as a musician thinking of how I started this, and how it's come full circle for me to realize what I envisioned so long ago.

So where to go from here? I've been thinking a lot of which direction to take with At War With Self. I've been writing for the next disc, and a lot of rough ideas are down. Manfred Dikkers, who covered all the drums and percussion for A Familiar Path, has kindly offered to write drum and percussion tracks for the next set of new music. So the foundation is underway for a new release in the future.

Over the past few years, I've gotten heavily involved with listening to music in surround format - getting my hands on all the DVD audio, super audio and DTS mixes I can find. The ability to take stereo mixes to 5.1 is something I'm very intrigued by. The new King Crimson surround re-mixes of Red and In the Wake of Poseidon are currently in heavy rotation and kicking my ass! Listening to Deep Purple's Machine Head in 5.1 makes me take back the idea that I would never want to hear Smoke on the Water ever again. It's truly an incredible format.

I have a very specific idea for the next AWWS release - and it will be released with two discs - a CD with a stereo version, and a DVD containing a DTS surround mix. As I've been writing the new material with the surround format in mind, I decided to take some existing tracks to see how this could work- I re-mixed a couple of tracks from A Familiar Path to 5.1. Then I decided to dust off the tracks from Torn Between Dimensions, which have been sitting untouched since the discs's release for a number of reasons.

Going back through the tracks on Torn Between Dimensions and listening to all the drum and guitar parts that are difficult to discern in the stereo mix, due to the dense layering and nature of the compositions, I realized that the 5.1 format is a must for this music. Similar to my idea for the next new set of tracks for AWWS, the re-release of Torn Between Dimensions will have a re-mixed stereo version and a DTS format surround mix. There may also be some acoustic versions of some of the tracks added for this release, as some of these songs were originally written for two or three classical guitars (The God Interface was originally an exercise to incorporate some of Leo Brouwer's classical etude techniques into my own compositions, as his studies are still very inspiring for me to listen to).

Re-visiting Torn Between Dimensions was way, way overdue and this format is the perfect reason for me to do it now. I hope to have it released by end of this year, with a new AWWS disc to follow shortly thereafter.

I hope to have another post within the coming months to provide an update on timing for the release, as it gets closer to completion.