Bloodsong

ensemble string quintet, two electric guitars, three clarinets, piano, glockenspiel, and soprano voice
duration ~3:26
listen on bandcamp
score PDF, 145KB
performance history Available on The Nitrate Hymnal, by ASM + Gena Rowlands Band
date completed 06/21/2005
era NYC

background

When we set out to record songs from The Nitrate Hymnal, we were purposefully having ASM arrangers come in to change up the songs from their opera origins. That meant that I had nothing to do, really, except help get manuscript and performance notes from Bob’s sketches to the arrangers.

So it made sense for me to choose one song that was cut from the opera production. “Bloodsong” was for a plot device where blood types revealed a past infidelity, but it was never pursued past musical sketch because the story arc changed and the entire idea was axed. But it got so close to being a song that Jean and I always had the opening of the vocal melody stuck in our heads. So we decided to burn our scripts and just pretend like the song existed all along.

The character singing this was called The Destroyer, and her theme is played by the piano’s left hand starting at measure 39. The harmony was built to work with that line, though it’s intentionally discordant. I wanted to bring in an echo of the tragedy in the story, so I used controlled guitar feedback as a voice and portamento and sul ponticello effects on the opening (and closing) strings to give it a more unsettled, melting feel (both of these sonically similar to effects in “Dear Posterity”). Overall, it’s an odd melody line, and a strange number that sticks out a bit from the rest of the recording.

As in “The End”, there is no notated vocal part. Jean sketched out a vocal line from earlier drafts and got it approved by Bob. Unlike other numbers, there was no sketch or collage to inform the arrangement – since this piece had never truly existed, it’s the original arrangement.

I wasn’t there for all of the tracking of this, and unfortunately there are two production errors (both of which should’ve been addressed in the notation – live and learn). The first is that the high piano parts were intended to have delays on them (probably stealing from Pink Floyd’s “Don’t Leave Me Now”). The second is the way the vocal line lays atop the strings in the bridge; it’s supposed to be more languid, or at least more ethereal, so that the end of the vocal line floats above the strings’ descent to 3/4. It worked OK as it was, and the budget was tight enough already, so everything was left alone. (The raspy sound at the end is a piece of paper on the low strings of the piano. No, I don’t know what I was thinking.)