7. Defense Highway

View Travis Orbin’s drum tracking video for ‘Defense Highway’:

And Gabriel’s piano tracking video:

Read the lyrics to ‘Defense Highway’.

Gabriel’s Notes: You can hear influences from Failure, drum-n-bass, barbershop quartets, Debussy, and more in this 10 minute song which alternates between full band sections and stripped down interludes (mostly solo piano). Thanks to the song’s frequent tempo changes and numerous sections in free rhythm (which are thus of indeterminate length), it had to be tracked in multiple chunks and somewhat out of order. This song contains the oldest music on the album – I actually wrote the piano part in my sophomore year of high school, nearly 10 years ago. It was only the second piece I ever wrote for live instruments, with Inner Sanctum being the third, written immediately afterwards. They were originally conceived together as part of a disastrous 30 minute long solo piano suite, which has also served as the source material for three songs that will appear on the next two TGC albums. While creating a full band arrangement of Defense Highway in the year leading up to recording, I revised its structure, removing some parts (which became another 11 minute long song) and adding a piano interlude based around the chord progression which ends Inner Sanctum.

Travis’s Notes: There’s much to say about this one, so I’ll begin with the gear. The tune starts with the same setup as “Subway Dwellers” (except w/ my flat ride on the right), switches to dual floor toms for the big mid-song climax, back to rack/floor for the first drum solo (more on that later, of course), a hybrid style kit consisting of 12″/14″ MDM hats, my 4″x14″ Pearl maple piccolo snare (same one I used on SD, but tensioned high) and Reference brass snare for the drum ‘n’ bass section, and finally back to the regular kit for the ‘noise’ solo and the rest of the tune.

Once the drums enter at 0:28, it stays upbeat and energetic until the first tempo change. There’s some dual ride stuff at 2:40 – 2:42 and a brief ‘chick – splash’ pedal hat ostinato at 2:57 – 3:04. For the big mid-song climax, I felt that the dual floor tom setup would generate a more powerful and dramatic feel. The cymbal mutes at the close of this part (4:32) complement the very next piano note that follows. (You can see me grabbing the china before as well so it doesn’t bleed into the mics – that one isn’t ‘timed’, heh).

For the first drum solo, I didn’t write anything ahead of time but I figured out what I wanted to do just before we recorded. There’s a bit of improv within the transitioning to each part, similarly to the bridge in Pete P’s “Death Country”. It was important to do it this way, as the accents are crucial to the piece (one on the downbeat of every bar but the fourth, then nothing on the downbeat at the end). When we tracked this I had Garrett loop the click, I went for it several times and we kept the best take. You can see me motioning to Gabe a ‘meh’ sort of hand signal regarding the take I had just completed before launching into the one that made the album, haha. I think those are 16th septuplets at the very end. Anyone wanna transcribe this for fun?

I had a bunch of fun writing parts for the drum ‘n’ bass section. Originally, Gabe wanted a simple part underneath and a crazy part overdubbed, but I made it my goal to write something so bitchen it nearly sounded as if two drummers were playing, hehe. Gabe really highlighted this and brought it out with his amazing use of panning. The transitional sections are played on my regular brass snare and larger hats for contrast.

Skipping ahead to the ‘noise’ solo, this one was also a ton of fun, which is obvious if you watch the unabridged version that I’ve tacked on at the end. I think Gabe originally programmed a bunch of gibberish (apologies if not! haha) and I thought it’d be cool to just throw a mess of sticks on my kit and have him run around the room like a madman, making as much noise as possible. I left my other floor tom set up with some cymbals scattered about on the ground for him, plus there was an old, out-of-tune piano in the live room which was perfect, haha. None of this was timed to the click or pre-conceived, of course. We tracked so much stuff that some of it had to be cut in addition to the whole thing being chopped in half and layered on top of the initial half. It was a bit difficult, but I edited my footage to sync up with the first half as best as I could.

Skipping ahead, the song becomes upbeat and energetic upon reverting to its initial tempo of 132 at 10:02. There’s some flashy stuff once I move to the china, including a floor/snare triplet flam – a Colaiuta trademark. The ride bell at the end is played with the tip of my stick for less abrasion, and I move to the bow when the melody drops. The mute at the end is timed to complement the piano.

And as always, there’s even more complementation present:
0:55 – extra snare on ‘and’ of 4, vocals
1:10 – 1:24 – hi-hat accents, vocal melody
1:38 – 1:45 – cymbal accents, bass/distorted piano stabs
3:03 – 3:26 – cymbal orchestration, chord progression
6:06 – 6:15 – cymbal orchestration, vocal melody
7:47 – pedal splash, piano mash
10:06 – 10:11 – low crash/splash, vocal melody

Full drum set transcription
Tempo (0:28, when drums enter) = 132 BPM
Tempo change (3:34) = 100 BPM
Tempo (5:10 – 5:35) = free, very slow
Tempo change (5:35) = 145 BPM
Tempo (6:17 – 7:31) = free, very slow
Tempo change (7:31) = 100 BPM
Tempo (7:48 – 8:26) = free, very slow
No tempo/’noise’ solo (8:26 – 8:50)
Tempo (8:50 – 9:30) = free, very slow
Tempo change (9:30) = 100 BPM
Tempo change (10:02) = 132 BPM
Tempo change (10:26 – 10:32) = 126/122/119 BPM (ritard)

Into the Chamber

This week, I’d like to take a break from talking about Interior City to share some of my chamber music with you. Here is a video of ‘Between Entwines’, a collaborative work which Sophia Uddin (the violinist on Interior City) and I wrote and performed together.

This video is from our debut performance of the work at the second annual Swarthmore College Student & Alumni Composers Concert in Lang Concert Hall on October 29, 2011.

Program notes: ‘Between Entwines’ was written during the summer of 2011. It began when Gabriel sent Sophia a tiny sketch for her to augment and return. It continued to grow from there, mostly through email correspondence, with some additional work done in chat boxes and in person. It is intended to be the first entry in a series of piano/violin collaborations using the same set of motives.

Sheet music for Between Entwines can be purchased on the Stores page and can be viewed below:

Before Between Entwines and Interior City, Sophia was a member of The Mandelbrot Quartet, who performed some movements I wrote for string quartet. Here is a video of their final performance of these movements at a split concert with the jazz quartet Menage on April 22, 2011 in Lang Concert Hall:

I began writing the quartet with the ‘Interruptions’ movement, a hyperactive expression of crazed joy. The title was actually devised by Gerald Levinson, my composition teacher at the time, as the piece constantly interrupts itself. The harmonic language of the movement (chromatic contrary motion) was inspired by Ligeti’s first string quartet, while the structure was inspired by Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments. ‘Hedonistic Ritual’ is a short, fast and angry movement which was inspired by seeing this Dillinger Escape Plan concert and wanting to bring some of that anarchic energy to a classical concert hall.

Here is The Mandelbrot Quartet’s debut performance of ‘Interruptions’ from the first annual Swarthmore College Student and Alumni Composers Concert in Lang Concert Hall on November 6, 2010:

At the same concert, I participated in a performance of Ben Starr’s vocal composition ‘Assumpta est Maria’:

As a side note, the closing number of the Mandelbrot/Menage concert was a joint performance of Keith Jarrett’s ‘The Wind Up’ with both Mandelbrot and Menage. It’s not often that you get to see a jazz quartet and a string quartet perform together!

Travis Orbin Solo EPs

There is much exciting news in the world of Travis Orbin! Firstly, he has officially joined Darkest Hour. Secondly, he is recording two solo EPs for release (hopefully) later this year, ‘Projects’ and ‘Silly String’. He has just posted a song from ‘Silly String’ on youtube:

Song info
Purchase info
Full drum set transcription
Tempo = 84 BPM

You can view a song from ‘Projects’ below:

Song info
Purchase info
Full drum set transcription
Tempo = 97 BPM