the Books

A blog by Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong of the band 'the Books'

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Apr 28

Beautiful People

Hey All,

The Forkcast has ‘leaked’ a new track from ‘The Way Out’. http://pitchfork.com/forkcast/14244-beautiful-people/

Hope you like it!  As always, every track on the record sounds pretty different, so don’t read too much into it as the direction for the whole album.  It’s one of many, we just needed to start someplace…

The working concept for the sound of ‘The Way Out’ was pretty simple:  Every track needs to sound like it comes from its own universe.  That is, every track is it’s own rabbit-hole.  As on ‘Lost and Safe’ the new record is a mixture of sample based and lyric based songs.  Beautiful People is one of the four ‘sung songs’ on the new record (14 tracks, about 50 minutes in all).  In this case, a three part christian harmony mixed with a sort of euro-disco-trash beat, an orchestra’s worth of sampled brass and lyrics about the twelfth root of two (my favorite irrational number) trigonometry and tangrams which will make up the video portion of the song for the live show.

The super nerdy lyrics are:

Behold the finite set of thirteen convex figure

the irrational sine versus tangent forty-five.

And we genuflect before pure abstraction

1.05946…, twelfth root of two, amen.

to begin again…

To whom we venerate seven pieces,

endlessly manifold, self-contained, replete.

With all respect, we beseech the book of figures

Make us your analog, to begin again.

A bit of explanation:  The twelfth root of two defines the mathematical relationship between musical notes.  That is, to get the next note in the (chromatic) scale, you multiply the frequency of the root note by the twelfth root of two (1.05946….).  I started using this number a lot when cutting pvc pipes to the right lengths for the instruments i’ve been building (as in the Drake cover).  Anyway, I think this number represents “God” about as well as anything the religions of the world have come up with, so why not write a hymn around it.  (in a sense, all hymns are written around it).

The tune and harmonies came directly from a Danish hymn that Paul found, as sung by a chorus of Inuits from Greenland (if i’m not mistaken, Paul).  The disco beat came from and exercise record from 70’s (the same source as one of our French elevator tracks), and it sets the tempo and key.  The main loop is in sevens, another godly number.  And I dare you to count the polyrythm through the ‘to begin again’ loop in the middle.  I’m particularly happy with that one. 

This track also became a great excuse to delve into Paul’s amazing collection of sampled brass and other orchestral sounds, like sackbuts, viols, crumhorns, foghorns, alpenhorns etc….  Over the years he’s amassed an extraordinary collection of samples of every instrument of the orchestra, from many dozens of sources, and have organized them in a very useful way.  Perhaps he’ll tell you more about it… 

So, the rising orchestra you hear at the end of song,  I composed of dozens of layers of samples of single notes played on different instruments, taken from many many disparate sources.  It was a brain-bending challenge in mixing but there’s no other way to do it.  Viva la Sackbut!

More Soon!

Nick


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