2. Ranting Prophet

Here is Travis Orbin’s drum tracking video for ‘Ranting Prophet’:

And my piano tracking video:

Read the lyrics to ‘Ranting Prophet’.

Lyrics: The story’s main character observes that everyone surrounding him seems just as uncomfortable with their existence in this realm as he is. They all cope with being alive by engaging in various forms of escapism – television and other media, religion and other frequently dogmatic forms of belief, hedonism and substance abuse…
As he watches others, he realizes the futility of his own fight against being alive. He tells himself that he needs to bring acceptance into his life or he will make himself miserable and waste his energy, but can’t bring himself to act on this, as the negativity in his mind is too strong.

Music: The main idea in this song is a rejected harmonization of a motive from the first movement of my string quartet (Listen to more movements here). This particular more rock-oriented harmonization didn’t quite fit with the piece, so I made a rock song out of it. The motive only appears briefly in the quartet, but it is repeated relentlessly here.  It is paired with a tapping bass line written by Tom Murphy and a dual drum part. The left drum set is a 4/4 loop (a sampled ’80s Genesis drumbeat in my original demo, replaced by live drums in studio) which keeps running in 4/4 even when the song changes time signatures in the bridge. The idea of having two drum sets play polymetrically against each other is something that King Crimson explored in some of their dual-drum lineups, but it’s an idea which has been woefully underused in my opinion. The polymetric bridge is followed by a reprise of the piano/vocal opening, this time in a full band arrangement, accompanied by tremolo picked guitars and blastbeats (techniques drawn from extreme metal).

The instrumental interlude following the first verse is a direct quotation of an idea Messiaen used in used in quite a few of his early works (and in one late work). Messiaen detested music with a constant pulse, but I have accompanied the quotation with a jazzy rhythm section playing a clear constant pulse, making the quotation rather sacrilegious.

My vocal approach through much of this song was largely inspired by Trent Reznor. The vocal embellishments at the full band entrance were inspired by traditional arabic music, and they are immediately followed by a section in which the guitar, saxophone, and violin all solo at once (simultaneous solos were common early big band jazz and in the music of Charles Mingus). The violin solo in this group, written and performed by Sophia Uddin, quotes the first movement of Bartók’s sixth string quartet. She plays a much longer violin solo to end the song, in which she quotes the second movement of Bartók’s second string quartet. You can hear a collaborative piece that Sophia and I wrote together here.

Piano video: I apologize that I look so serious and stoic throughout this video – I started out doing more energetic takes, but ended up getting more focused as I went along. The picture-in-picture bits weren’t actually used on the album – I recorded them as guide tracks for the guitar and violin. The line I’m playing in the first PIP continues to run while the second one is playing, but unfortunately there’s no way to make two PIPs play simultaneously in iMovie. My sister sat in for this session, and you can see her sitting in the control room.

Travis’s notes: There’s a drum loop that runs throughout most of this tune that I tracked, but – regrettably – did not film (I included it in the first bar of the transcription). In Gabe’s original demo, the loop was lifted/sampled from a Genesis tune and I stuck pretty close to it. However, I wanted to retain a hand-to-hand hi-hat feel with tom-toms and other cymbal orchestrations poking through here and there, and what came out of me is what you see. My feet are playing a single stroke ostinato underneath, with the right foot moving back and forth between the right-side pedal hat and the bass drum. The ostinato dictated not only where within the bar but also which set of hats I choked.

In the section starting around 1:54, I employed some softer dynamics. There’s a cool over-the-bar polyrhythm at 2:07, then each subsequent ride strike is louder to segue back into the verse. At 2:45, the loop stays in 4-4 while the tune shifts between 7 and 6. The delayed snare backbeat at 3:08 complements the vocal. For the crazy blast-beat-driven bridge, I sought to punctuate it in spots; it usually starts at the tail end of the four-bar progression then bleeds into its repeat. There’s a two-bar tag at the end in which I play a ‘bomb blast’ in the first bar; I came up with the idea while tracking. Thankfully, my feet were cooperative that day haha.

Full drum set transcription
Tempo = 109 BPM

Other appearances: This song appeared on the compilation CD for Zero Tolerance Issue #54 along with a review of the album. Their master of the song can be heard and downloaded below:

1. Arrival in a Distant Land

Here is my piano tracking video for ‘Arrival in a Distant Land’:

Read the lyrics to ‘Arrival in a Distant Land’.

Lyrics: It begins shortly after birth, with the slow dawning of a person’s awareness and the development of their memory. Like most people, the main character in this story cannot remember his birth. He instead has a vague sense of where he came from before he was born and has a strong desire to go back to that place, as he is horrified by this world and finds it a terrifying and disturbing place to live.

Music: This song tries to answer the question ‘What if George Crumb were a singer-songwriter instead of a contemporary classical composer?’  It was inspired by his ‘Eine kleine Mitternachtmusik (Ruminations on Monk’s Round Midnight)’ (2) (3), particularly the ‘Incantation’ movement, as well as the first movement of Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Visions De L’Amen’, the ‘Amen du Creation’ (you can hear Messiaen’s Nightingale call in ‘Arrival’). However, both of those works are meticulously composed instrumental pieces, while this is a semi-improvisational vocal song, different in every performance.  It obsesses over part of a chord progression which returns in the middle of the album and is completed at the end.

Piano sessions: The piano tracking sessions for Interior City took place in the second week of January 2012. The piano was the only instrument not tracked at Garrett Davis’s West Main Recording, as Garrett does not have a working piano in his studio. We ended up having to relocate and bring all of Garrett’s gear to Salisbury University’s nearby Gull Works Studios to use their Yamaha C7 Grand Piano.

Unfortunately, the camera containing all of the violin, guitar, bass, and saxophone sessions as well as half of the piano sessions and most of the vocal sessions was lost or stolen, so I could not include any footage of the vocal takes in this video – nor will I able to do a complete piano tracking video series for this album.

Recording this song: The studio version of the song as shown in this video is last of 3 continuous takes – if there is any interest, I can upload the first two for comparison purposes. Each take is quite different, as the right-hand piano parts in the solo piano introduction and outro are completely improvised. Each take ended up being slower and longer than the last as I got further into the mindset of the song, with the last take being the slowest and longest. A song that had been only five and a half minutes long in my original demo became nearly seven in the final studio version due to the slower pace. I was unaccustomed to singing the vocal parts this slowly, and it caught me off guard in the studio and proved to be quite difficult.

I apologize that the camera angle obscures some of what I’m playing inside the piano – this was tracked at the end of a long day of piano recording, and I forgot to adjust the camera to account for the extended techniques.

Live Performances: This song has been performed twice so far in solo performances by Gabriel Riccio. The debut live performance was at the 3rd Annual Swarthmore College Student and Alumni Composers Concert in Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore, PA on November 10, 2012, while the second performance took place at the third concert of the 11th Annual Festival of Contemporary Music at the Community Music Center in San Francisco, CA on August 17, 2013. Both performances can be heard and downloaded below:

Interior City – 4/5/13

album_coverThe Gabriel Construct’s debut album, Interior City, was released on April 5, 2013!  It is a dark and atmospheric concept album written and performed by Gabriel Riccio and featuring Travis Orbin (ex-Periphery, Sky Eats Airplane, Of Legends) on drums, Thomas Murphy (ex-Periphery) on bass, David Stivelman (ex-Debbie Does Dallas) on guitar, Soren Larson on saxophone, and frequent collaborator Sophia Uddin on violin.  It was engineered by Garrett Davis (Train, Shinedown, The Devil Wears Prada) and was mixed and mastered by Taylor Larson (Periphery, Sky Eats Airplane, Life on Repeat).

Interior City is now available for purchase at:
Bandcamp (Physical, digital, full stream)
CD Baby (Physical, digital)
Amazon.com / Amazon MP3
Amazon.co.uk / Amazon UK MP3

More can be found on the Stores page.

The cover art was painted by Joseph Borzotta. His mission statement for his paintings reveals why he was the right artist for Interior City:

Many of these images explore peoples’ relation to society and themselves. How connected are they to what is happening around them, or right on top of them? The paintings are a visual exploration into existentialism – analyzing existence and the freedom, responsibility and isolation of the individual. Are they in environments that they created, or are forced to live in?”

Check out Travis Orbin’s thoughts on the Interior City sessions:

My involvement in this full-length album came about through an old friend from my local music scene, Garrett Davis, who has long since turned to producing/engineering. He told me about this guy who “might need some crazy drums” for his solo project, and within a couple of months I was writing parts for one of my favorite projects ever. I also helped round out the personnel, acting as a bit of a scout for Gabe and suggesting Tom as session bassist and, of course, my bud Taylor Larson for mixing/mastering.

I recorded all of ‘Interior City’ in early January 2012 at Garrett’s digs (West Main Recording) in Salisbury, MD. I used a wide variety of gear, switching out cymbals and snares — and even my rack tom for another floor tom on occasion — per tune. I also utilized a second ride cymbal on my right side. For the most part, however, I used my Pearl Reference Pure tom-toms and my Vision kick. I used Emperor coated heads on the toms, Controlled Sound on my brass snare and a coated Ambassador on the piccolo snare (stock head). Side note, but this was the first session I ever filmed supplemented with my Canon 60D.

Obviously, a part of being in the music business is developing relationships that are integral to your career. However, in my experience, most of the people with whom I work end up as friends, for contributing to their music is a unique, intimate experience. I’m proud to call Gabe, a fiercely talented individual, my friend and to continue to work with him on future projects – both as a sideman and a full-on collaborator. Dear audience, please heed these words: you’d do yourself a service by purchasing this album upon release, finding some headphones and a quiet room and relishing the journey.

Abort Magazine
Absolute Punk
Babyblaue Prog-Reviews
The Big Takeover
Can This Even Be Called Music?
Culture Catch
Dangerdog Music Reviews
Dutch Progressive Rock Page
Echoes and Dust
Empire of the Sky
Follow the Signal
Heavy Blog is Heavy
Huffington Post
I Am Entertainment
Inanna Naked
Lords of Metal E-Zine
Manifesto Music
Metal for Music Majors
Middle Tennessee Music
Monolith Sound
Music Emissions
Music News
Music Street Journal
Music Waves
Obscure Sound
Prog Archives
Prog Rock Music Talk
Rate Your Music
Red House Reviews
Rhythm and Truth
Rocking Republic
I Rock Therefore I Am
Rock World Magazine
Sea of Tranquility
Skope Magazine
Sputnik Music
The Aardvark
The Pulp Scribbler
The Truth About Music
This Is Not A Scene
Two Guys Metal Reviews
Under the Gun
Universum Noll
Unknown Metal Bands
Urban Alternative
Vents Magazine

Delmarva Daily Times
Lords of Metal E-Zine
Music Street Journal
Pen’s Eye View
Under the Gun
Vents Magazine
Warped Magazine

Stream ‘Interior City’: