The music on this album was written during a particularly dark period in my life, when my parents became terminally ill, my job got much more "challenging", and the American political system was going to hell as quickly as possible. I was often stressed and angry, and my musical vocabulary changed to reflect that. Except for a brief section in the title track (and Ramwong Loy Gratong, offered as a palate cleanser), there are no pretty melodies or triadic harmonies here, and the structures are more complex. It’s not for everyone.

Ironically, as I was preparing this album for release in July, 2013, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart problem (an aortic aneurysm), apparently caused by a tropical blood infection and aggrevated by stress. Fortunately, modern medical science and a lot of money restored me to reasonably fine health, and the increased blood flow to my brain has significantly improved my emotional outlook, to the great relief of many.

Oh, the Agony of My Heart
Written in 2006-7, during the nadir of the G.W. Bush presidency and as my parents were dying and the family coming unglued, it was originally conceived as a ballet score titled Threnody (for the Victims of Insanity). It’s scored for a small orchestra (flute, clarinet, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, trumpet, 3 trombones, tuba, several percussionists, electric guitar, electric bass, piano, Rhodes electric piano, Hammond organ, 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, contrabass), male voice, a mixed chorus chanting mostly in unison (in Sanskrit), and a two-channel electronic recording.

The text sung by the male vocalist is from The Book of Jeremiah 4:19-24, wherein the writer laments the coming decimation of the once-again misbehaving Israel by the Babylonians (Iraqis). “Oh my anguish, my anguish, I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart...

While I was writing this, my wife began taking Yoga Teacher Training classes. To cope with all the information (presented in rapid-fire American English), she recorded her classes on a portable recorder. I then edited the recordings, reducing each class to a few CDs. When the composition was nearly complete, I had the feeling that something was missing. As an experiment, I added recordings of her class chanting, and found that they fit perfectly, in tune and providing exactly the aesthetic balance I was seeking.

The orchestral parts were virtualized with Gigastudio and several libraries, plus some Pro Tools plug-ins. the male vocal was created with my voice and Native Instruments’ Vokator vocoder; the electronic score was created with Reason. The chorus was comprised of students and faculty of Sivalee Yoga House in Pathum Thani, Thailand.

 

The Unquestioned Answer
Composed in October, 2004 for soprano and alto saxophones, trumpet, electric guitar, 5-string bass guitar, and drums, this was my first overtly algorithmic composition. A full score, and notes describing the process in great detail, is available at:

www.johnmelcher.net/library.html#UnQuestionedAnswer

All parts were virtualized with Gigastudio. For this recording, “talk-boxes” were added to all parts except drums.

Planned as part of a multi-movement suite that never materialized, the title refers to a trumpet line at the beginning of the third section, a rough quote from Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question. It seemed an appropriate title for something written as the 2004 Presidential election unfolded, the illegitimately-elected incumbent heading for re-election on a campaign of deception and character assassination rather than real issues.

"Interesting- especially rhythmically. The YouTube score definitely helped me to 'see' what I took to be little algorithmic motifs..." (Chameleon Music)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlRMOnkW0Ng

 

Variations for String Quartet
As the title sates, this is a set of twelve variations on a “theme”, which is not presented in its entirety until the end. It employs a variety of algorithmic techniques to create different textures and styles. This recording was made using the Kirk Hunter Solo String library for Gigastudio. A full score is available at:

www.johnmelcher.net/library.html#Variations

 

Ramwong Loy Gratong
This folk song of unknown origin is usually known simply as “The Loi Gratong Song”. It celebrates the Loi Gratong holiday in Thailand, which falls on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (in mid-November), celebrating the end of the rainy season.

Traditionally, Thai people go to the local rivers, canals, or any other accessible body of water to float a gratong, a small float made of banana leaves (sadly, now often styrofoam), which also includes flowers¸ a candle, incense sticks and a coin.

They also eat, drink and dance the ramwong, in which men and women dance in pairs in a circle. It has been especially popular among Thais and foreigners since a Nationalism promotion by the Thai government in 1938 established ten “official” ramwong song and dance patterns. More information is available at:

www.johnmelcher.net/library.html#Loi%20Krathong

I started working on this arrangement on an extended business trip to Shanghai in 1987, and finally completed it in 2005. It’s so sweet you should probably brush your teeth after listening.


 


Sivalee Yoga House is a yoga studio in suburban Bangkok (Pathumthani), Thailand, owned and run by Naree Chaijaroen. The "chorus" on this recording comprises twelve of their Certified Yoga Trainer graduates, and the chants are those which are sung at the beginning of every yoga session. For more information, go to www.sivaleeyoga.com.

 
 

Lomluka Sinfonia is the “virtual orchestra” used to realize most of Melcher's compositions since 1990. It’s both a physical collection of interconnected computers running music synthesis, recording and editing software, and an approach to composition and orchestration that attempts to emulate the sound and texture of a real orchestra. Constantly evolving, these recordings used Gigastudio 3.0 with several sound libraries, Reason, and several Pro Tools instrument plug-ins (Strike, Velvet, Xpand, Hybrid, Vacuum). The pianos were created with Gigapiano, using Yamaha grand piano samples. Digital 48-kHz, 24-bit audio was input to a Pro Tools HD system for recording and mixing. More information about this technology is available at www.johnmelcher.net/studio.html.


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