He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
– Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll
My first thought upon seeing Candice’s initial art draft of Beneath the Tumtum Tree was: Sir Knight, should you be staring at that Bread-and-Butterfly? My second was: NO REALLY, LOOK BEHIND YOU.
Candice’s first draft of the knight. (Get your act together, sir, there’s a Jabberwock afoot!)
I wonder how things worked out for the aspiring hero in our Jabberwocky-inspired triptych? I guess we’ll never know… What I do know is that musical ideas immediately began flowing after I viewed the original artwork, and that is one of the main reasons I love collaboration. You’re not starting with a blank slate1; you’re building on the foundation laid by your fellow artists.
It’s no surprise that the impulse to incorporate contrabassoon immediately sprung to mind. Candice’s Jabberwock is towering and fearsome, but at the same time its gait feels somewhat lumbering and the weight of its armor cumbersome, just like a–erm, sorry–contrabassoon. But in fairness to this low, surly brother of the bassoon, I had just seen Quentin Tarantino’s new movie The Hateful Eight the previous day, and Ennio Morricone’s score blazed fresh in my mind. If you haven’t seen it or for some reason the music did not leave such an imprint in your memory, the opening track L’ultima diligenza di Red Rock features, among many other fantastic elements, an interplay of bassoon, contrabassoon, and tuba.
While Morricone had a contingent of professional and virtuosic musicians to record his score, I, alas, did not. Instead, I own a bundle of EastWest‘s sample libraries, or “virtual instruments.” It’s like working with MIDI, but it sounds a thousand times better–and yet still doesn’t rival collaborating with living, breathing people. Sample libraries are an invaluable tool though, especially if you’re working on projects that don’t have a budget for hiring those living, breathing people.2 That’s why one of my goals for Triptych is to hone my skills with them and Logic Pro, a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that allows you to manipulate those samples through MIDI. Despite having owned the libraries for several years now, and having utilized them on multiple film/interdisciplinary projects, I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what they’re truly capable of. And I am by no means an expert at Logic. Sometimes I still feel like we’re in the getting-to-know-each-other phase, and our encounters are not always pretty. I have so much to learn, but each project brings me one tiny step closer to fluency in this digital language. I’d hazard it’s comparable to an artist who has trained for years in traditional media but is now moving into the digital realm.
Once upon a time this looked like complete gibberish to me.
The piano roll still does sometimes. Progress?