THE CORNER ALBUM - The title of this album is representative of some changes in my life and a new beginning with music. As a whole, the album genre is electronica, although specific songs range from blues to classical. For me, the creative process often begins with an inspiring chord sequence, sometimes followed by lyrics. Using “Pro Tools” audio workstation software, virtual instruments, and a keyboard controller, the other tracks are built to form a song. Very few samples are used, with most sounds individually programmed. Frequently, guest musicians have laid a track to a song, sometimes provided with a musical score and sometimes left to improvise. After performing the final mixing and audio processing, I send the results to Disc Makers for mastering. I have written and produced all of the songs on this album and play all of the instrument parts, unless noted below.
ARI’S SONG (Anna Rader - Vocals, Sophia Sprunger - Solo Violin, Janet Heffner - Backup vocals, Dave Heffner - Lyrics) This pop-style ballad was the first to feature a software synthesizer from Germany and the sound is reflected in some of the arpeggios that inspired the whole song. The lyrics came as naturally as any I have written. The vocal harmonies are some of my favorite.
WALK (Anna Rader - Vocals/harmony, Janet Heffner - Backup vocals, Janet and Dave Heffner - Lyrics) The simple woodblock percussion inspired this ballad, reminding me of walking. Lyrics were written with the help of Janet. This is one of two songs on which Anna sings harmony with herself. The music is supported by some of my favorite string arrangements and basic piano chording.
COMFORT (Anna Rader - Lyrics and Vocals, Len Cagle - Tenor saxophone) European electronic dance music inspired this song, which is actually composed of two parts. The second part introduces local professor and jazz player Len Cagle on the saxophone. Once Len is given general musical direction, he takes it from there with great improvisation. The high pitch bell sound at the beginning is a Japanese Koto, which I really like and incorporate into several other songs. A fun note on the lyric line, “Music is a copy of the will,” is from the 19th century philosopher Schopenhauer, who had some interesting things to say about music.
FROM THE CORNER (Anna Rader - Vocals, Janet and Dave Heffner - Lyrics) This ballad is the namesake of the album. I spent many an hour being disciplined by standing in the classroom corner. In a reverse way, this ostracization only made me more independent. This independence has been part of significant turns in my life, most recently leading to the creation of this album! Anna sings simultaneously on multiple tracks, giving a special ethereal quality. This recording was the first one on which I experimented with filter gates for a repeating effect.
BLUES ETUDE IN C MINOR (Len Cagle - Tenor saxophone, Anna - vocals) Being a two verse/chorus instrumental, I attempted to use a more classical Gershwin blues style with this piece. On the first part I am playing a full 88 keyboard, followed by part two with Len improvising on saxophone. I believe we could have easily improvised much longer than the 4 minutes devoted to this blues number. Strings are used sparingly in the background, as well as Anna singing softly near the end.
GET OUT THE JUNK (Len Cagle - Tenor saxophone) Although I classified this as electronic, the inspiration was from jazz fusion music I played some time ago. The saxophone part is structured in the first half, but then heavily improvised towards the end. There are a lot of electronics going on in the piece with 24 tracks of instruments, arpeggiators, and samples, many of which show up in a big ending. This is my first composition to use Wobble on the bass, producing a pitch and rhythmic movement by varying the low frequency oscillator. This is a technique used frequently in “Dubstep” although the rhythm is based on contemporary D&B (drum and bass genre). I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the frequent use of “cowbell.” :-)
I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU (Anna Rader - Vocals/harmony, Dave Heffner - Lyrics) Not quite fast enough at 120 bpm to be called “Dance,” but possibly in the new style called “NuDisco.” The German software synthesizer Hybrid 3 is used liberally on a dozen tracks. I enjoy programming this synth with arpeggios, sequences, filters, etc. The musical core revolves around a “Trance” track in the treble clef. Most of the vocals are mirrored with a lead synthesizer and a touch of strings in the classic disco style. The lyrics are dedicated to my wife, Janet.
I WOULD MISS YOU (Len Cagle - Tenor saxophone) Len does a great job with this soulful “Smooth Jazz” number, which is, perhaps, my favorite sax piece on the album. I lead with a big synth sound, playing over a rhythmic piano track and background strings. The drum track is a classic 50 bpm “Rhythm and Blues” beat. The saxophone follows the synthesizer track on the first chorus, but takes the lead in the second half of the song.
THE TEST (Anna Rader - Vocals, Dave Heffner - Lyrics) Anna demonstrates the determination in her voice that the lyrics are meant to represent; i.e., personal fights against challenges in life, in particular, chronic illnesses. Musically, a classic B3 organ sound stands out, especially with me playing an extended organ solo in the bridge between verses one and two. The bass is emphasized in the mix more than the drums, in order to carry the momentum of this “pop” ballad.
JOB BLUES (Anna Rader - Vocals, Len Cagle - Tenor saxophone, Janet and Dave Heffner - Lyrics) The lyrics in this classic “Jazz Blues” number are meant to poke fun at the frustrations of an unhappy job. I believe the “blues” feeling is captured by the musicians with plenty of improvisation happening. Some may be surprised to know that the guitar solo after the second verse is actually played by me on the synthesizer. The snare drum is kept mostly on the off beat to keep the swing going with the organ being played using a classic B3 sound in a supporting chord role.
COMPLAINTS (Chris Kulp - Guitar) This progressive rock piece combines Chris’s talent on the lead and power guitar with a half dozen synthesizer tracks. The lead guitarist plays a repeating theme throughout the song. A 150 bpm heavy metal drum drives the fast pace with E minor chording provided by the supporting tracks. My favorite synth program is the low bass modulation in the second half that I call “T Rex,” which carries the melody for a while. I believe the tracks capture the song title.
ODE TO SHOSTAKOVICH (Len Cagle - Tenor Saxophone) I once read comments by composer Dmitri Shostakovich about how he liked to explore the sounds of dissonant notes, such as C and C# played together. I explored this concept by playing chords in fifths above and below C and C#, which grew into this classical-style composition. Even the Timpani are tuned to C and C#. The modern nature of the piece allows for Len on the tenor saxophone to blend in and to add harmonic runs in the later part. The challenging piano track is the backbone of the composition, with the other tracks, such as strings, giving support. This is also the first time I programmed over a dozen rhythmic changes, ranging from 80 bpm to 220 bpm.
LITTLE ONE (Margaret Abbott - Violin) This was first written as a lullaby for piano. After I explored the melody with counterpoint and variations, it evolved into a violin piece. The style is part classical with a folk flavor. Margaret does a fine job of expressing both elements with her violin performance. The violin melody is supported by marimba and synthesizer tracks. We discussed the merits of the drum track and finally decided to include it for movement effect. This piece is dedicated to the “little ones” in our lives who mix the sweetness of their presence with constant movement.CONTROL (Anna Rader - Vocals and Lyrics) This piece is filled with five synthesizer tracks that sequence, loop, and arpeggiate using different rhythms, with minimal drums. It was a challenge to keep all the automation synchronized. I classified this as an electronic ballad, if there is such a style with a traditional verse and chorus form. The song and album end quietly, looking to the future.