Modal Unravelling

I have been hard at work on my version of Bj√∂rk’s “Unravel.” Like I said in the previous post, I was drawn to the unfolding of the mode over time. To draw this out, I added layers of my voice gradually outlining the two major chords in the piece (Bb6 and C6), with saxophones playing the mode at the start. Currently, there are no digital effects added. Instead of using reverb, I tracked each vocal part three times. For the second take, I used a Shure SM-58 and my standard M-Audio Nova simultaneously. I found the SM-58 to have a more ‘direct’ tone, which helped give the sound a little more definition.

These tracks will serve as the backbone of my arrangement. I’m still working on blending the alto sax and clarinet for the melody, and I plan on doing some modal improvisation after the first statement of the melody. I’m going to be away from home for the next week and a half, so the finish will have to wait. But I think it will be a nice companion piece to my “Unison” cover. Hmm…maybe they will bookend my next Christmas gift album?

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This Woman’s Work

When I read that Kate Bush was revisiting “This Woman’s Work” for hew new album Director’s Cut, I was inspired to create my own interpretation of this masterpiece of a song. It is a paean to parenthood that explores how relationships change over time, and how individuals change within that relationship. The intricate harmonic progression lends itself well to an instrumental version.

I chose to arrange it for clarinet choir for the textural possibilities of the different registers. The throaty lower register contrasts well with the clear tones of the clarion notes. The arrangement started with the first motif you hear (G-Bb-Eb-G-A); the chord inversions add instability to the harmonic structure, something that gives the song additional drama. Most of the new melodic material came from that motif. As the song continues, clarinets are added until there are six. After the climax, all but one line drop out.

Recording and production presented a few difficulties for me, since I had never recorded a clarinet before. The sound of the fingers closing the tone holes is a percussive effect that can be obtrusive if the mic is placed too close to the lower joint of the instrument. I found that placing the condenser mic at an angle above the sixth finger roughly six inches away captured the woody quality of the clarinet’s tone perfectly.