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.

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