cullen miller & matte wood – process part 270 (sleep)
Sleep is comprised of two pieces of music: Dream and Delta. They were initially conceived as a part of a larger concept, but unfortunately, although those other songs are finished, they won’t be heard mostly due to mine and James’ lack of desire to revisit the past. James and I wrote this over a year ago after he moved from New York to San Francisco. He is now moving back to New York. So a few weeks back when Rayna asked me to contribute to Modyfier I knew that it was time to dust the nostalgia off of these unfinished mixes.
That being said, this is about sleep. The first piece, Dream, is a variation on a theme by Alexandre Desplat reworked and re-arranged for strings, woodwind, and brass. It was written with the intention of emulating REM sleep. Although we tried to do our own thing on this one, I think it’d be difficult to deny the influence of the French impressionists. Those guys created that classic sound that we associate – either directly or indirectly – with dreaming. To my ears, it’s almost like they branded the cliché sound of a dream around the turn of the 20th century. The way that they utilize chord extensions conjure the sonic imagery of lullabies and mid-day reveries.
We were very lucky to have some amazing musicians playing the parts. Before I go any further let me introduce them: Kearney Vander Sal (flute & trombone), Ralph Carney (clarinet, bass clarinet & contra bass clarinet), James Ogilvie (trumpet), Autumn Turley (violin), Mike Lee (cello), Bobby Amirkhan (contrabass), and James Jano (piano).
You may notice that I’m avoiding writing about our piece. Brian Eno once said, “talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” I often find myself in the predicament of describing my music to someone and due to it’s emotional nature, I really don’t know how to start a dialogue about the music itself. Since this is an artist’s statement, I can discuss some of the sound engineering and still remain objective.
The latter half of the music is written and designed to invoke the sensation of deep sleep, thus the title:Delta. When we fall asleep our brainwaves slow down and we experience the onset of different tiers of sleep. The neuronal networks oscillate at different frequencies depending upon different variables. If you’re feeling anxious the ions in your brain are vibrating faster than 13Hz per second. Scientists refer to this state as Beta sleep. On the contrary, there is a Delta state which vibrates at frequencies below 4hz and are associated with deep meditation and dreamless sleep. Taking that into consideration, James and I designed some binaural patterns to induce a simulated sense of reality.
It is not a coincidence that this piece is in 12/8 time. The word Delta comes from Greece. It is the fourth letter in their alphabet yet oddly enough is a three-sided polygon. This struck me as somewhat counterintuitive. So I decided to dig a little bit deeper. This investigation led to an even deeper confusion. In ancient linguistics there is perpetual disagreement as to whether the fourth letter of the alphabet is a triangle or a quadrilateral. So I figured that in this piece of music we could mitigate all of the discrepancy and do both by utilizing the least common multiple: twelve! Four beats in groups of three amidst three beats in groups of four.
Delta is also utilized in traditional jazz notation to signify a major 7th chord. While the music changes key 6 or 7 times there is still the ostinato bass figure that outlines and repeats a C major 7 chord throughout the entire piece.
All science and concept aside, this piece of music marks the beginning and end of an era for me. My best friend and musical collaborator is moving away and this piece represents some great times that we had together. We sincerely hope that you enjoy it!
- Words by Cullen Miller