Composer Notes -- A Million Stories

I. Adumbratio - a shadow or outline of a figure


Begin at the beginning.
There are a million stories
And just one

00:22 - this ascension is a recurring motif - that's me at the very bottom of my singing range.

00:53 - that's the sound of bird wings -- some starlings taking off.

A few years ago, I received an email, which I've since lost in a hard disk crash, from someone thanking me for the track "Interiors," saying it had become the sound track to her summer. I thought to myself, "It's eleven minutes long; that a pretty short summer."

I set out to create a full-length tone poem. The length of a summer? No. Thankfully, I came to my senses after 38 minutes.

When I was a girl I was more or less obsessed with birds. I had a notebook with a separate page for each bird I had seen. Each page included my crayon copies of James Gordon Irving's illustrations from The Golden Guide To American Birds as well as lists of habitats and feeding preferences. I went on long, solo birding walks. I listened to recordings of birdcalls over and over again. To this day, the song of a thrush or a vireo will make me pause and listen, like a whisper from an old friend.

And you alone will tell the tale.
You alone know the road you came on.
You'll be all alone here,
but you alone will know the tale you'll tell.

Are these the best of times?

All I want is for you to remember me
For this is all there will ever be...

02:53 - This ascending vocal is a sample from “I Sewed The Feathers To My Arms,” a song that appears on the Ping Ambience 2 CD You’ll hear this again later.

Was this a dream? Sewing the feathers to my arms, the run, the leap before catching the air.

04:11: "This is all here for you, all for you…."
Everytime I hear this part, I still hear these words, even though I took them out to leave space for the spoken words in the next part.

II. Cruse- a small jar or vessel


05:40 I'm more interested in the texture of all these talking voices than in what they're actually saying. There's something about the tone, urgency and emotion of each voice that conveys more than the words do.

I am aware that some people might find this music a little disconcerting, if not difficult. These are not songs in the pop sense. There’s no comforting repetition in the structure; as soon as you get used to one melody, it morphs into another, so the only way to become familiar with it is to listen to it over and over. I think of it as the sound of thought, or at least the sound of my thoughts. I don’t know what your thoughts sound like. My thoughts, when I’m not concentrating on something, tend to be all over the map. I hear echoes of the last phrase I spoke aloud, mixed in with pieces of melodies, a small amount of tinnitus (which I’ve had since I was a child, due to some ear surgery), and random musings about this or that. Not very organized or structured, I’m afraid.

What does it all mean? If I could explain what this music means to me, I wouldn’t have taken the time (a lot of time, by the way) to record and mix it. Whatever you think it means is just fine. And that’s not just me being coy or shy – I’d have to write an entire book to explain why I made the choices I made, and what I think it means to me now, and what I remember it meaning to me when I wrote it, and, well, you get the picture…I’d rather work on new music than continue to analyze this.

I really like that there’s no visible protagonist, reciting lyrics, telling the story. There IS a viewpoint, and it’s mine, but it’s hidden and it really doesn’t matter anyway. You’ll have to be the protagonist if you want to know what this music means. It’s really about you….a soundtrack.

III. Induration - a hardening process


Days passed and we were older
you would not know me
now I don't remember who I used to be

10:52 That background vocal is a sample from Lachrymatory (Sylvatica)

When I started writing "A Million Stories," I envisioned creating something centered around this old rhyme:

“One crow sorrow
Two crows mirth
Three crows a wedding
Four crows a birth
Five for laughing
Six for crying
Seven crows for sickness
Eight crows for dying
Nine for silver
Ten for gold
Eleven crows a secret never to be told.”

But I didn't like the way the original piece turned out, so I cannibalized the usable parts and threw out the rest.

IV. Cumber - restrain or hold back


12:43 The sticks are a series of samples from my soundgarden, recorded in stereo and triple tracked. Each stick is a former part of a frame of a child's bouncing hobby horse. Here's where the horses themselves are.

The birds are a sample of a large flock of crows on a rainy day (if you listen very closely, you can hear my shoes on gravel and some rain hitting the microphones)

There's also a sample of trucks whizzing past on a highway arterial.

This days, like all days, will end
Strung onto the end of a strand of pearls

15:04 These paranoid whisper voices originally appeared as less of a conversation and more a litany of criticisms.

all I want is for you to remember me
For this is all there will ever be.

Everything is changing; nothing is like it used to be.

V. Motivity - the power or ability to move

18:30 Each voice is telling a different story, and they weave in and around each other. There's such a yearning tone to it.

Can you see me? I'm
Everyday we begin again
Did you think you would never be lonely again?

VI. Extravasate - escape or pour forth


This section was originally titled "Gongs and Bells," but not too many of the original samples remain now.

23:55 A sample from "Nico's Dreaming" (Sara Ayers: The Figura Remixes)

24:55: A sample from an unreleased track "Red Tailed Hawk"

26:55 A sample from an unreleased track "How Birds Fly"

27:19 Inspired by Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna"

26:07 A sample from "Flight" (Sylvatica)

VII. Attrahent - that which attracts


33:40 A sample from "The Choosing" (Voices)

The dichotomy of my work is striking to me -- I seem to alternate between beautiful, almost new-agey work (Strand of Pearls, Drowning In Light, Winter and the Sound of Nothing) and much darker, more experimental pieces (Interiors, Are You Coming Home? and A Million Stories). The pretty pieces easily attract an audience while the wierder ones have harder time of it. But I haven't been able to tell yet whether my work has two disparate audiences or one very broad-minded one.


VIII. Lucida - the brightest star of a constellation

When we lived in the land of before...

Everyday we begin again...

35:36 These voices are my vocals pitchshifted down an octave.

Can you see me? I'm here...

36:11 And these are more samples from "I Sewed The Feathers To My Arms."

There are a million stories
And you alone will tell the tale
Begin at the beginning.



Thoughts about A Million Stories by J. Mundok

Thoughts about A Million Stories by anonymousblack