The Edge - Details
THE EDGE album
Dudly Ulysse, beatmaker and assistant engineer, when asked how he would describe the music on this album, replied, “Edgier.” I like that because many of the songs deal with getting older and having a double meaning of finding ourselves closer to the “Edge.” Dudly’s good sense of audio balance and interest in special effects has influenced the final engineering on many of the tracks in this album, as well as, the drum parts of several songs.
Marlowe Jacques, 14-year-old regional music competition winner, plays the violin skillfully on three very different pieces. Having performed on my past albums, local symphony violinist Margaret Abbott recently moved to Maine and was not able to contribute.
Bruce Klepper, contemporary classical composer from Colorado, wrote the string arrangement on the “In Xanadu” track for Marlowe, adding a wonderful harmonic richness to the piece.
Len Cagle, German professor and accomplished jazz saxophonist, has been on more tracks than anyone else over the last few years, never knowing what genre will be next. I like to quip that when I present a music score to Len, he plays something better.
Chris Morgan, graduating Lycoming College music major, is new to my work. He brings his trumpet and flugelhorn playing to three songs. I enjoyed hearing the brass on the tracks, being a trombone player myself.
Chris Kulp, physics professor and electric guitarist, returns for two tracks, having played on another intense song, a few albums ago.
Alice Weiler’s wonderful voice dominated my last album, but her schedule only allowed for her to sing on one song; however, it is one of my favorites.
Jeremy dePrisco (https://www.jeremydeprisco.net/), fellow producer and writer, was visiting me one day and happened to bring his acoustic guitar. Not to miss an opportunity to have him play, we recorded a track that was later expanded into the song “Change My Mind.”
Lucy Henry, retired music teacher, recorded a challenging flute part, adding a wonderful new acoustic sound to my compositions. I liked the choices she gave me in tones and her precise performance.
Anna Rader’s wonderful vocals dominated my first two albums. I was happy to record my daughter for one song during a visit to our home, since she no longer lives in the area.
Arianna Rader, 7-year-old granddaughter, now in the Boulder Children’s Chorale, is featured for one song. This recording was done with a mobile setup, then transferred to my studio equipment at home.
Janet Heffner, my wife, sings on many tracks, helps with lyrics, marketing, and continues to be my biggest fan.
I have written the music and lyrics, performed, engineered, and produced all of the songs, except where noted. CD jacket front cover photo courtesy of Janet Heffner. CD graphic assistance by Cassie Blair.
FOUR SEASONS (Alice Weiler - vocals, Len Cagle - tenor saxophone, Jan Heffner - vocals, Dave - vocals, piano, organ, synths) Style: pop
“Will you still love me in the Winter?” is the lyrical phrase that the song revolves around. The music evolved while experimenting with a C major chord progression on my new Roland RD2000 digital keyboard, although the verses ended up modulating to C minor. Alice Weiler sings solo for the verses, three layers in unison for the pre-chorus, and three layers in harmony for the chorus. Jan and I add three and two additional vocal layers, respectively, to the chorus, using the wonders of multitrack recording. Len Cagle improvises the bridge solo and verses with his tenor saxophone.
IN XANADU (Marlowe Jacques - violin, Bruce Klepper - string arrangement, Dudly Ulysse - drums, Dave - synths) Style: progressive electronic
Xanadu was a real place created for the leisure time and hunting of Kubla Kahn, but my song was inspired by the mystical poem of the same name by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, that I once memorized for the challenge. Many of us have thought of an ideal place to be, only limited by our imagination. I tried to capture the environment of the poem that is further enhanced by the rich harmonies in the string arrangement by friend and classical composer Bruce Klepper. This song introduces eighth grader and amazing violinist Marlowe Jacques playing three violin track layers. Classically trained, he adapted immediately to the electronic environment and wearing headphones to record. Dudly Ulysse wrote two drum tracks: one, a lighter Caribbean style, and another, with a heavier kick drum.
TOGETHER (Arianna Rader - vocals, Dave & Jan Heffner - vocals, Dave - piano, synths) Style: pop
One of the harder decisions my wife and I have had to make, was whether to stay in the home and community we know and enjoy or to move near to our daughter’s family, which is quite a distance away. This song expresses that decision. Using an iPad, I recorded 7-year-old granddaughter Arianna singing the vocal lead at her home while playing the early version of the song through headphones for her. The recordings were then transferred at home to my main equipment in order to produce the final version of the song. Jan and I sing the chorus together with Arianna.
NON COMPOS MENTIS (Dave - piano, synths) Style: progressive electronic
My school years were difficult, beginning with my Kindergarten teacher, who used to frequently say to me and my parents that I was “non compos menis.” Not until many years later, did I find out it means “not of sound mind.” So how did that little kindergarten brain work, now that I have 20 plus synthesizers at my disposal? Take a listen.
BABY STEPS (Chris Morgan - trumpet, Len Cagle - tenor saxophone, Dudly Ulysse - drums, Dave - piano, synths) Style: jazz
The title is a humorous reference to the song by John Coltrane, “Giant Steps.” The piece began with me requesting Dudly to create a slow drum track, which I referenced as I created a chord sequence on the piano. Chris Morgan came highly recommended for the resulting trumpet part and Len Cagle improvises to the chord sequence. The whole process has loosely controlled guidelines, but open for improvisation. One of the reasons I like jazz.
DEEP THOUGHTS (Len Cagle - tenor saxophone, Dave - piano, synths) Style: progressive electronic
Deep thoughts can be lofty ideas explored with the most complex thinking and they can be the most primal in our minds. Representing the complex, a bassoon leads an orchestral arrangement. The primal is reflected by a heavy drum and bass track along with Len Cagle’s improvisation. The two styles are brought together, as these two extremes must, in order to be a balanced human being. I had a good time experimenting with various techniques of vocal synthesis and manipulating my voice. In case you wonder, the words in the primal section are meaningless.
CHANGE MY MIND (Marlowe Jacques - acoustic violin, Jeremy dePrisco - acoustic guitar, Jan Heffner - vocals, Dave - vocals, piano, synths) Style: country folk
The tone and style of this song was set by Pepperhead studio owner Jeremy diPrisco’s two guitar tracks that he added to a simple bass chord progression I presented to him, during a visit to my studio. This is a rare case of me not having any drums and writing something in country style, complete with me playing honky tonk piano style and Marlowe playing in fiddle style. I had a lot of fun doing this song, which includes writing the lyrics.
TRAPPED (Lucy Henry - flute, Marlowe Jacques - acoustic violin, Dudly Ulysse - drums, Jan Heffner - vocals, Dave - synths) Style: contemporary classical
Drummer Dudly Ulysse presented a complex “trap” drum beat to me that, after much experimentation, resulted in a flute and violin duet. Although trap is used in hip hop, this piece took a contemporary classical direction in style. Marlowe and Lucy had to play precisely to make the music work and stay synchronized with this challenging rhythm.
SACRED COWS (Chris Kulp - electric guitar, Dave - vocals, synths) Style: progressive rock.
Originally, the music for this song was done on an iPad, using its touch screen, with a program called Korg Gadget. The music was then transferred to my main computer in order to record the vocals. I rarely voice my opinion about controversial topics in my music, but then, this album is titled, “The Edge,” so I can go for it. Chris played electric guitar on two tracks, creating quite a big sound.
TAPPIN’ (Chris Morgan - trumpet, Len Cagle - tenor saxophone, Dave - piano, synths) Style: jazz
This is a cheerful song, thus “Tappin’” one’s foot. Trumpet, sax, and piano solos are each featured in this jazz number written to a rhythm and blues beat. This piece is influenced by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, with whom I played my trombone along with their records as a junior high student and later in a jazz and rock ensemble.
SINGULARITY (Chris Kulp - electric guitar, Anna Rader and Dudly Ulysse - vocals, Dave - vocals, synths) Style: progressive rock
The “singularity” as envisioned by Raymond Kurzweil, head of artificial intelligence at Google, is when the general intelligence and self-learning of computers surpasses that of humans. He believes the answer is to merge with computers, estimated to happen sometime from 2029 to 2045 assisted by little known Google projects like “Deep Mind.” Knowing a bit about technology, I see it as perhaps the biggest short-term existential threat to mankind. Musically, I have utilized warping bass sounds called “wobble” with a harsh dubstep style drum and robotic background, representing the cold threat of machine versus man. Employing 40 tracks, makes this one of my most complicated mixes to date.
FUNK CITY (Dave - synths) Style: electronic funk
That last song was pretty heavy, so here is one just for fun and dance. I really like to use the timbale drums in breaks between musical phrases. Lots of keyboard work in this funky number and utilizing several instances of my favorite plugin synthesizer Serum. Very powerful. In fact, it kept crashing my state-of-the-art computer with its heavy demands of processing power.
RAIN, RAIN (Dudly Ulysse - vocals, Len Cagle - tenor saxophone, Dave & Jan Heffner - vocals) Style: melodic hip hop
It is quite normal to wish away bad circumstances and in this song, one is encouraged to be yourself and live today to the fullest, despite what struggles in which one finds themself. Drummer / Beatmaker Dudly performs a nice fast rap in the verses and with me in the pre-chorus. This is followed by Jan and me singing six track layers in the choruses, with Len adding his saxophone improvisations. This mix has over 30 tracks of recordings, making it complex, yet musical.
LIVING ON THE EDGE (Chris Morgan - flugelhorn, Jan Heffner - vocals, Dave - vocals, piano, synths) Style: melodic hip hop
I am thankful that Chris recommended the flugelhorn instead of the trumpet. Its warm, mellow tone is just perfect! This song is quite personal, reflecting on my having Parkinson's Disease and now seeing “the edge” closer than I wish. But as Jan and I sing in the chorus, “to create, is quite sublime.”