the Books

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

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Jul 27

Chain of Missing Links

Hey everybody,

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  Happy New Great Year!

              Consciousness is exploding and developing!

We find a lot of unmarked and cryptically labeled cassettes.  Most of them just turn out to be mixtapes, which are fun to listen to in the van, but every once and a while there’s something really unexpected on there.  The voice from  ”Chain of Missing Links” came from a dubbed tape in a thrift-shop that had “meditation” hand-written on it, so of course, Paul picked it up.  It’s hard to shake the feeling that there was some fate involved… the cosmic plane tilted in our direction that day.     

It was a guided meditation tape.  There were elements of progressive relaxation, but the imagery was extraordinarily vivid and journey around the body took us to some very unexpected and private places, not all of which appear in the track.  Paul methodically cut out all of this spectacular imagery into a series of a few dozen samples, also saving the verbs, prepositions and conjunctions that would allow us to reconnect them later.   Then it was a matter of recombining the with the goal of reaching a deeper realization.  The great strength of New Age is that it is not afraid to leave reason behind.  

Science has obvious limitations and often has trouble expressing itself.  I have a degree in chemistry, and I’ve studied hard science for a large chunk of my life, and I still love it.  But the reason I left it for music had to do with this feeling of constrained expression (and being forced to spend entire days in windowless rooms under fluorescent lights).  I did research on the organic synthesis of liquid crystals with Lee Park, and I remember lamenting with her that the time of the scientific freeplay of da Vinci, Copernicus and Newton is gone, having been replaced by corporate interests and academic politics.  Music has a a much more accessible sense of freedom at its cutting edge.

I’ve learned that it’s bad policy to outrightly dismiss large chunks of human experience.  One man’s bogus is another man’s dharma.  One of the most frustrating thing about humans is that we have a tendency to only consume the information we agree with.  Thus there are large numbers of people addicted to the kool-aid of the right or left, thinking everyone else is crazy.  Dichotomies are like that, they spring up out of fear wherever there is uncertainty.

I’m not a New Age practitioner, but I have practiced meditation, mostly zazen, and it’s been a great help.  I really recommend it.  The remarkable thing about zazen is that you very quickly realize how noisy your mind is when you leave it to it’s own devices.  The music for this track was written with that in mind.  Paul composed the introduction for this track as part of another sketch, and I extended it with the heavy “drums” that come in and the beds that support the narrative.  The bass line was made from a classic synth tone that Paul found on vinyl that we call the “Laurie” note since it reminds us of Laurie Anderson for some reason.  The melody is made from some very wobbly telephone beeps.

The percussion was made by recording brushes on my pine desk, then applying several layers of reverb to the sound, cutting and reversing, applying a “Leslie" type envelope filter, and using an 808 kick with most of the high end removed.  There’s a bit of acoustic guitar and cello as well, with a spaced out chorus that I sang and applied sweeping mids to.  If you listen very carefully you’ll also here a countdown.  Counting is a part of most styles of meditation so it made sense.  It’s also a bit of a nod to Boards of Canada, who I listened to incessantly in the late nineties, especially “Music Has the Right To Children”.

Until tomorrow, Indigo Children…all you need is a wall.

Nick


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