I’ve been waiting nearly two years to write this update.
The magical year of 1685 was an amazing moment for the music world –
Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Händel, and Domenico Scarlatti were all born.
Johann Sebastian Bach enjoyed tacos.
The namesake of Handel’s Water Music was intended to convey that the music would be enjoyed among a body of water. My titling contains no such subtly or graceful instruction. It’s music, made with samples of water in various forms.
After a long time in post production, I’m happy to announce that Water Music is published and available at, well, everywhere.
I had a brief reminder of my affinity for so many of Handel’s works, and in this particular instance, “Wassermusik” – Water Music: A friend sent me a video file of her sink faucet; it was rhythmically emitting a steady drop of water, with mild variants in the pitch and timbre – enough to be easily recognizable as a repeating melody in 4/4 time. I extracted and edited the audio track from this file, and began writing a short piece using a few-hundred samples of water ( quite literally) from various sources (mostly freesound.org)- but it wasn’t enough.
A few days into some field recordings and tedious edits, I also had a healthy database of a few thousand original samples as well.
The rare photograph portrait of J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel, during their single meeting in London.
Bach carries the severed arm of a conquered competitor, after “Die Schlacht der Klaviere”
(The Battle of the Harpsichords)
I received a phone call at some point during the first few hours of writing some portion of a track, and the caller asked me what I was doing; I replied ‘Writing water music’. I suppose the title became official then. Earlier that day, as I walked home from the grocery store, I was amazed to see a few movers carefully placing a drawing-room harpsichord (a replica I’m sure) into a portable shipping container, in front of a music business.
This brought my mind to the stories surrounding King George ordering the premiere of “Wassermusik”, Suite in D/G Major, HWV349/350, by Handel, to be performed in it’s entirety three times on a barge, on the evening of July 17, 1717. The performances were preceded by apparently comical attempts to move a harpsichord onto the barge, an exercise that was eventually abandoned because of time constraints.
It was this same year that Bach moved to Cöthen, and composed the Brandenburg concerti, and the St. John Passion.
I got home and dusted-off a copy of ‘Water Music and The Royal Fireworks’ and began listening to the overture over and over. Sure, the sonic textures of water were likely not the muse behind Handel’s compositions here, rather an idea of structures to be enjoyed at social functions by the water-side.
Sinks, streams, dry ice, crying, swimming, glaciers crashing into the Antarctic; though I certainly love the music of Handel, it’s no comparison for the infinite complexity and soul-grappling axioms that nature presents in our most crucial of matter, water.
I seem to take a blunt approach in working with sounds of this complexity. That is, directly writing and sequencing with un-processed samples of the source structures, and modifying ADSR, instead of synthetic mimicry or DSP-dependent soundscapes. Endlessly complex sets of waveform and frequency variables like those produced by waterfalls, leaking faucets, streams, and other generally luscious, licky, smacky noises are very exciting to work with. I decided to split the now decided album into three key points: Texture, rhythm, and melody.
By the time I had finished, I largely ignored those self-important, posturing demands (a position I try to reserve for commissioned work), but promised myself I’d employ minimal DSP, and preserve the integrity of the source data, unless the piece absolutely called for alteration. Looking back, it was a very demanding collection of tracks, and I took away from it a deeper awe of the universe present within the smallest water droplet.