Another JazzFest teaser: HymnPeace ‘Re-ReMixed’

by wijeratneworks

Only last week did I finish writing all the music for the brand new electro-acoustic project WijeratneWorks, featuring the illustrious DJ Skratch Bastid, which is set to debut at the Halifax JazzFest this summer. Of course, one has never truly ‘finished’, because any show containing improvised content will continue to evolve and demand alterations.

The project has become quite the roller-coaster of discovery, and frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way. Until now, I have primarily existed in a totally acoustic world, as I can dutifully answer any questions you may have about how to make something sound good on oh, say, a flute. But change the subject to pre-recorded samples and loops on a set of turntables, and I’ll happily start pestering you with questions. Thankfully, Paul (Murphy) – a.k.a. Skratch Bastid – was kind enough to submit to my pestering when we met this week to go over all the music I’d written for the show. There were over 100 samples to go through. We hung out, we chatted, we got the laptops out, we jammed. It turned out to be one of those überinspiring sessions you spend with a musician who gets excited about the same things you do, and who also helps you find great excitement in things you have overlooked.

It was utterly fascinating for me to observe him in action up-close as he explained many technical things that sent me straight to geek-heaven: his choice of software; good attacks and decays of samples; how he visualizes the motion of the turntable in a typical 4-bar loop; ‘turnarounds’ at the ends of loops; how mid-frequency sound-files make for better scratching than high or low ones; etc.

(I have no idea whose hands these are btw)

When he spoke it reminded me of similarly scintillating moments I’ve experienced in the company of percussionists holding berimbaus, famous accordionists and tabla players among others, who have graciously and passionately demystifed the wonders of their instruments for me through show-and-tell. I find that the limitations of an instrument are just as thought-provoking as its possibilities, since both force you to come up with solutions.

DJ Shub goes forth to represent Canada in the international finals

It was certainly the kind of week to intrigue and stimulate, since on Saturday night I was at the Palace in Halifax, where Paul and DJ Jazz Jeff (yes, him!) were adjudicating for the Red Bull Thre3Style Canadian National Finals (five young DJs going head-to-head with only 15 minutes each to establish their superiority), while on Tuesday I was at C.P.Allen High School to watch Paul and students premiere a piece for DJ and wind ensemble, conducted by their visionary teacher Nathan Beeler.

Molto, MOLTO cool.

I was actually beside myself with excitement for most of the day and it wasn’t until the evening that I realized why: firstly, turntables in conjunction with live instruments is just plain cool; and secondly, I was at the inception of something so unusual and totally unexpected.

Nathan Beeler and some chap who presented him with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Getting back to JazzFest, the band and I will be playing a 60-minute set that I had originally intended to be a bunch of short pieces, but now have realized into three contrasting 20-minute epics, each with plenty of peaks and troughs, nooks and crannies, premeditated moments and unintentional ones (the best kind). In trying to imagine a good closer for the set, I thought I’d attempt an electro-acoustic ReMix of an older piece of mine entitled HymnPeace. It already exists in the form of an ‘orchestral remix’ (commissioned by the CBC for Symphony Nova Scotia and Buck 65; boy what a killer night that was), and a ‘trio remix’ which actually premiered at the 2008 Halifax JazzFest (another highly memorable evening for me, as I often feel nostalgia for the audience singing at the very end). The essence of HymnPeace is a simple melody which one can complement with whatever-else, and arrange and orchestrate into whatever-size. So maybe there will come a time for further incarnations, but for now I’m hearing a remix that goes from atmospheric synth pads through indian drum loops and tabla kaidas to a bit of headbanging euro-trance. The latter starts here:

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/38482655″ iframe=”true” /]

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I apologize for the highly compressed audio quality, but that’s SoundCloud for you ;)  As I mentioned in the previous post about this project, this is only a mock-up that is done primarily to give me and the musicians something to listen to and practise with as we prepare for the show. It is a condensed exposition of material that will ultimately be embellished in performance, and is missing all the live elements, not to mention Skratch’s, er, scratching.