Friday, June 3, 2011
"Songs of Praise and Torture"
1: Invocation 12:53
2: Basillica Neptuni 43:36
3: An Ever Bubbling Fountain of Resplendence 49:44
4: John's Cage 19:19
5: Indian Summer 14:55
6: The Big Blue Dream 51:30
7: Mid-evil Mantra 21:59
8: It was a dark and stormy night... 14:10
9: An Evening In The Lion's Den 70:46
10: Sunrise On North Field 33:09
Total Time 5:31:09
All selections composed, arranged, performed, recorded, manipulated, treated and produced by Oenyaw.
Recorded July -November, 2005. Equipment and software used: Epiphone Sheraton, Fender Stratocaster,
DanElectro Black Licorace Distortion, Morley Volume Pedal, Line 6 Modulation Modeler, Line 6 Delay
Modeler, Lexicon Omega Desktop Recording Studio, E Machines T2542 Computer (RAM upgrade 768),
Cubase LE, Polderbits Sound Editor, All Audio Converter V1.50, Windows XP.
The cover photograph was taken by Carol Higgins. The location is near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The
reason behind this being used as a cover for "Songs of Praise and Torture" can be seen in the movie "Once
Upon A Time In The West." It is a scene of torture, death, and a harmonica passage which resonates throughout the movie. I was going to write a long explanation about it, but I'd rather anyone who cares who
reads this to watch the movie. Carol had taken the photo during our honeymoon, years before we ever saw
the film. While watching the extra features on the DVD, we noticed the scene and realized we had been
there and had photographed the same location, just at a slightly different angle.
Subtitle: "An Apology to Phillip Glass"
I hope Phillip Glass will forgive me. A few years ago, I wrote a review bit on an Amazon page about the CD "Music With Changing Parts." I wrote that it was a great CD for clearing the house when you wanted every one to leave, and that if someone did stay, that you should open a bottle of wine and have a discussion on the subject of using music as a method of torture. I actually happen to love that particular piece of music. I was going to add to the short review saying how much I personally admired the piece, but hit the send button by accident, got cut off, and then could never edit the review. I have seen this short review pop up all over the internet, and I hope Mr. Glass has not taken offense to the remark. I consider him as one of my favorite composers, I think what he did for music in the 20th and 21st centuries will be remembered for centuries to come. I also think he is a very nice man, having met him and got his autograph on my copy of "Einstein on the Beach."
On the subject of "music to clear the house out." My best friend, Chris, and I were roommates for years. We would have people over to where ever we lived, partying in our youth. But there was always a time when we wanted everyone to leave. We had certain albums we would put on specifically in mind to weed out the guests. For example, if there were a bunch of metal heads over, Side 2 of The Talking Heads "Fear Of Music" would do the trick. We found that hardly anyone could handle Scorpions "Lonesome Crow", which was an album we loved. We found this out accidentally one evening when we put it on early on a Saturday and the apartment was cleared by the third song. I can still hear Chris saying "we gotta remember that one!"
As far as music as a form of torture, this was a concept introduced to me through a news story. In the 1980's, an officer in the American Army had been kidnapped by the what I think was the Italian Red
Brigade. He was kept for a long time, and eventually released. He was not harmed, but when asked about
torture, he remarked that the men who held him captive would play loud, heavy metal music constantly. He
did not like heavy metal, he considered the act of forcing him to listen to be torture, and said he would never
be able to listen to heavy metal music again. Torture and religion have existed together for centuries. Every culture in our history has a period when a religious group became powerful and decided to persecute those who did not accept that which the group was forcing on the people. The title "Songs of Praise and Torture" was picked over the title "What is Art For?". I felt that the pieces on this album of music each had an air of worship with somewhat of a rough edge. Growing up in a happy yet weird, religious family, I was exposed to many, many different ideas. My father was a computer programmer who became a Baptist Minister. My mother was a wonderful, stereotypical minister's wife who loved movies, including horror and science fiction. My father was not your normal preacher, he was politically liberal and always into conspiracy theories. It was the kind of family that would read the bible, sing a hymn, offer a prayer of thanks for the evening meal, and then watch an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Recorded during the same session as "Basillica Neptuni", I wanted it to be an introduction to the piece. As
I decided to drop the title of the album from "What Is Art For?" to "Songs of Praise and Torture", this
became a beginning the entire album.
I've been experimenting, and achieving music that sounds like it was created underwater. The Basillica
Neptuni is an actual location in the forum ruins of Rome, but I thought it would be a good theme. A temple
erected for the God Neptune should be underwater, no?
An Ever Bubbling Fountain Of Resplendence
This one has been bounced around so many times, and reworked and redone and remastered and recut, that
I have no idea of the original idea. My son is good at helping me with titles, he came up with the ever bubbling fountain bit.
A homage to John Cage, of course. The notes imprisoned the loop were created with a "tuned" ring
Another song of nature from Oenyaw. I thought this depicted the stillness of the short season which comes
after the first burst of cold in the winter, followed by warmth before the winter actually sets in. I don't know
why we call it "Indian Summer", but I have always considered it a romantic time.
The Big Blue Dream
In a roundabout way, I was asked to do some rock and roll or blues. I did a few different smaller things,
standard 12-bar blues riffs and progressions. I decided to put them all together in a dream sequence, sort
of like the second side of Mountain's "Flowers of Evil" album. Honestly, the choir at the end of the last
part just “appeared.” Freaked me out! One of those recording sessions when you hear something
happening and you place yourself under an enormous amount of pressure to “not make one single
As the title suggests, this one is a repetitive piece in a Gregorian tone, a chant, a music for making a
tapestry depicting some mid-evil adventure. Like the torturing of people who do not accept the ideas of a
minority of religious nuts who happen to be in power.
It was a dark and stormy night...
The original title was to be "It's Raining, The Monster Is Approaching, And My Body Weighs Heavily In A
Vertical Position Against The Stone Wall As I Reach For The Huge Obsidian Door Knocker", but I opted
for the famous opening line of Snoopy's novel.
An Evening in the Lion's Den
This is a personal favorite, and center piece of the entire project. I was thinking of a painting of Daniel in
the Lion's Den that I saw as a child. Daniel was in the middle of the lion's den, standing in a light coming in
from the ceiling (or maybe some holy energy). All the lions were around him, quietly content, and not
bothering him at all. The piece is in three movements. The first movement is "being shown the door", the
part were Daniel is taken into the den. The second movement is a song of praise, Daniel thanking God for
everything he can possibly think of, as well a song of faith, the knowledge that God will keep him safe. The
third movement explores the reality of the situation. "Oh shit, I'm in a den of lions!" The book of Daniel is
really good, but it seems to be not written by Daniel himself.
Sunrise on North Field
There is a sod farm near by the place I live. The fields are named according to location. I have seen the
sun rise, and set, on the farm and it can be absolutely beautiful. Deer walking around, squirrels playing,
birds getting what ever insects they can find. This piece is about the beauty of nature itself. I was riding
home the other night through the country and was passed by an SUV with the kids in the back seat watching
television. I went on a rant, “Don’t look out the window, and do not talk to mommy and daddy! Just watch
your show and be quiet.” Pitiful.
All selections copyright 2007 David Wayne Higgins