An Uncommon Dialogue About Vocals in a Progressive Metal Rock Song
by on March 31, 2015 in Interviews Synemotion

Synemotion - Homer, Sirens

Peter “Brutus” Habermann, writer at DEAF FOREVER contacted me to write a review of Synemotion for the June edition of this German print-only metal and hard rock fan and collector magazine created by passionate and (unrestrained by labels and managers) writers.

But an interesting conversation ensued after exchanging our bios and information.

Brutus asked a few intriguing questions:

Brutus: Reading your bio and about the way you create music evoked a nice knot in my mind; by transforming experiences to sounds you trigger feelings which may offer resolutions and peace to these experiences?

One question, although it may sound inappropriate, and I apologize for that – but, apart from some background and the spoken words, why didn’t you sing on Synemotion? Not that the songs couldn’t stand for themselves, they certainly do, but to me it looks like a waste of … possibilities … beauty. The enthusiastic choir of critics for Sleeping World is absolutely right, especially when everybody’s going crazy, speaking ’bout your voice. So – why?

OH.: Because my voice couldn’t do justice to the music – the music said it better and the voice just made it sound cheap.

Vocals in general are overpowering. They take all the attention. Sometimes we need to hear the sounds of nature, place our own thoughts and not those of the singer showing off her voice. What I do … what I think music should do … not what it is supposed to do… but you must be faithful to what the music tells you it is and not blatantly just always show off your voice because it is good.

Brutus: Thanks again for your fair answer. Your claim is a very modest one, and straight, as it is easy to follow. Showing off your voice just because it’s good never adds anything good to whatever, of course. On the other side – aren’t voices some of the most native and highly evolved sounds of nature? With your claim of how to create music, I can see no misuse potential. I only can trust you. Overpowering is something that happens in the act of listening, and because of their nature voices are extremely hungry and winsome, in any direction. The question is, if you as an artist are responsible for shielding the listener from this. I’m not sure. You definitely can and should bias the attention of your audience to where you want, or your experience need, but I see no reason to not involve your most natural strings to do so. Finally, you’re the source, you choose the tools. And, to make that clear again, you do it very well.

OH.: It isn’t an act of manipulating or protecting the listener – the listener isn’t there when the music is first made. After the music is made, I am the first listener and I hear the experience for the first time – the experience is a sound – that “sound” sometimes asks for voices or a voice – sometimes not. In this particular album, for this particular experience, there are voices in the songs – they are there and at the level the music suggested.

When I did try to forcibly put vocals on the songs because of the reasons you suggest – or under pressure for more marketability – the music for this “particular” album – was lost and drowned. This album wanted to be as it is.

And yes, the voice to me is a sound in nature and instrument and in my first album you can hear that the voice is not in “front” like most modern songs – it is at the same level as all the instruments.

This “mini-interview” you are doing is interesting and your questioning is profound – may I put it in a blog post?

Brutus: Sure, and thanks again for your extraordinary nice delineation and respecting arts nature. Which is an uncommon art itself.


References

John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) The above painting, Ulysses and the Sirens, 1891, is derived from a Greek vase. Homer’s Odyssey 12.165-217 where Odysseus risks his own and his crew’s lives by sailing so close to the Sirens. Earlier, the sorceress Circe has told Odysseus exactly how to survive if she cannot talk him out of his adventure, since he is adamant to hear the Sirens and live (12.37-58). He repeats her instructions to his men:

“You must bind me with tight-chafing ropes
so I cannot move a muscle, bound to the spot,
erect at the mast block, lashed by ropes to the mast.
And if I plead, commanding you to set me free,
then lash me faster, rope on pressing rope.”

In Greek myth, the Sirens were the daughters of the Muse Terpsichore by the river god Akheloos. Their usual abode was near the Straits of Messina between mainland Italy and the island of Sicily.

Odysseus faces toward the rear of the boat, and its sails billow with heavy wind that also causes whitecaps on the waves, just as Homer tells it, their oars “churning the whitecaps stroke on stroke”. There is an urgency throughout the painting as his men pull hard on their oars, a tautness in this dramatically imagined scene that the Greek vase lacks, only because its intention seems to be showing Odysseus in a moment of madness he will survive, straining in ecstasy at which any other human, less heroic, could only wonder. This is the moment both the Greek painter and Waterhouse chose, a tantalizing image of musical madness that ravished the soul until the body gave in and men threw themselves overboard, often to drown in churning seas. Odysseus is rapt, internally safe from their “honeyed voices” only as long as the external ropes hold him tight:

“So they sent their ravishing voices out across the air
and the heart inside me throbbed to listen longer.”

Source

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