Whenever I have the opportunity to visit a city, my “good tourist kit” always includes a digital recorder.
Some time ago I visited Berlin, where I stayed for some two weeks at my good friend Alex Paulick’s place.
In one of the many walks I took during those weeks, I passed by a large Cathedral down the river (which I later found out it was the Berliner Dom, the Cathedral of Berlin), and went in to check it out.
And not only the inside of the Cathedral was as impressive as the outside, but also I found myself in the middle of a beautiful tubular organ concert.
To me, this is one of the (few but rewarding) advantages of traveling without studying much about the places beforehand: the surprise effect.
And I couldn’t help it. I found a nice spot, placed the recorder and got some 15 minutes, the equivalent of two musical pieces. I never knew the name of the pieces I recorded, who had written them or who was playing them.
That night I told Alex of my visit and he told me, among various details that I have now forgotten, that the organ at the Cathedral of Berlin, the landmark Sauer organ, was the biggest in Germany when built, a unique historical relic that was kept in an excellent condition. He also mentioned that the organ concerts were pretty frequent in the Cathedral, and that the sound was majestic and impressive. This I had heard (and recorded!) for myself that afternoon.
Alas, however, the quality of those recordings did not reflect that sound. The Cathedral has a unique and humbling acoustic, and it is very difficult to record that with a portable recorder, even one with good microphones.
I had that recording in my head (and in my computer) for a long time, especially the main melody of one of the pieces. I always knew I was going to do something with at least a fragment of the recording, but the mix of background noise and the beauty of that instrument (the beauty I knew it had, and was aware was missing in the recording) turned out complicated to deal with.
It took me very long to decide what to do with that recording. And it took me more than a year’s work to complete this piece, both in the melodic and, especially, the sonic aspects.
In this track I used for the first time one of my “dream synthesizers”: the Nord Modular.
Without entering into many details, this synthesizer has an open architecture, as it gives the possibility of constructing sound from the very silence, interconnecting different modules in different ways (the Nord Modular has over 100 modules, with different functions and characteristics). This is done via a specific editor, connecting the synthesizer to a computer.
The possibilities are endless, and allow for a very detailed sound sculpture.
It is a beast of an instrument, which compensates its lack of immediacy (creating an interesting sound in the Nord Modular is not an easy task, and can take several hours) with the almost absolute lack of limits.
One of the more interesting challenges of this piece was, in fact, to make coexist in a same musical space such different instruments.
A huge instrument built in 1905, designed specifically for the space it occupied in the Cathedral where it was built and with an easily recognizable sound. And a modern and almost unlimited instrument, with sounds designed specifically for the space they occupied within the track.
Without this incentive (unnecessary and fictitious, but incentive nonetheless), the time transpired and the constant frustrations with the results, would have made this piece to be left behind somewhere in my computer, like many others, never to be rescued.
Besides, the consonant rhyme between Tubular and Modular was a bit too attractive (albeit a little obvious) to disregard.
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