Hey everyone, Troisnyx here. I'd like to begin by talking about my newest audio track, child of the woods.
It's a long, harrowing song with a long, harrowing history behind it. To you who would listen, sit by, while I tell you all the tale.
In my teens the plight of certain indigenous peoples where I grew up (the Orang Asli) came to my attention for the first time, through articles recounting the exploits of human rights commissioners, social workers from the Church and from other cross-sections of society, and elsewhere. Prior to that I hardly knew anything about them. I only knew of them from one, non-compulsory revision book for Year 9 history that I got from a major bookstore. And if such revision books were beyond my means, I likely would not have known anything about them.
You see, unless things have changed in the last ten years, the Orang Asli aren't even considered indigenous people, despite them having been there for far longer than anyone else has. They live in the forests, but the forests are being rapidly cut down for palm oil and wood, and these people's way of life is destroyed.
Sound familiar? That's because it's still happening, not just to the Orang Asli, but to the Amazonians, and to many other indigenous groups -- it likely will have happened to the Aborigines in Australia, and many Native Americans can recount to us the amount of ancestral land and tribes eradicated in similar, callous manners by greedy people. I only have secondhand knowledge of this matter from being exposed to the truth by people who worked with the Orang Asli, and I wanted to write about this matter in my teens, but no words could ever come to me. Those of you who have been following me for long enough know that I wrote about plenty of things in my teenage years that qualified me as being a dissident; I desperately wanted to write about the Orang Asli, but I felt I lacked the firsthand witness from the people who suffered, and are likely still suffering.
Ten years on, that subject matter still breaks my heart, no less because I see the same thing happening with indigenous peoples whose forests are set ablaze by wicked people. In October of last year, I was certain that the time had come for me to finally write about that subject matter, so I teased it in my Discord server and elsewhere. I made two livestream videos about me composing the instrumental to what would become child of the woods.
It wouldn't be my run-of-the-mill protest song: I would give it the garb of fantasy and tabletop RPGs, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. That was also something I held pretty close to my heart, as I love RPGs and fantasy, and my Seán and I were both in a local Dungeons & Dragons guild at the time. Many of us relate to the fantasy and RPG aesthetic, I figured, so I could weave a fantasy tale about a dying race of druids.
When the new year 2020 rolled round, I was working on Astgaban -- which I will be speaking of below -- and I also decided that child of the woods would be my first solo release of the year. To that end, I began drawing:
These were the lines and shading (all done on MS PowerPoint) to what would become the sleeve cover for child of the woods.
I felt my drawing quality was inconsistent -- there were times I felt that I could churn out decent artwork, and times where it wasn't that decent -- but what mattered more to me were the song and its message. Fun fact: I based the druids' costumes on some Orang Asli clothes.
The lyrics took me forever and a day to write; I was often at a loss for words. I kept wanting to convey this message, I kept wanting to keep to my usual poetic lyrical style. Even now I don't know if I've done alright on those.
The music for child of the woods didn't take me long to produce, but the recordings took me a long time to get done, owing to the fact that by the time I needed to make a start on those, it was storm season; we had four storms batter us over a six-week period. The wind howling outside the window, and other things battering the window (including hail) made it impossible for me to sit down and record things.
Then finally, Sunday 8 March 2020 came along; it would be the day I began mixing this. I finished mixing and mastering it the day after.
As I mentioned in the description of that piece, I choked up, especially towards the end when I threw in the sound effects of wood burning. This piece has been quite the emotional weight; I'm glad to have seen it through to the end.
For those of you who have missed my previous post, my doujin circle, Aetherhythm (formerly A Reyvateil's Melody) have released a new EP, called Astgaban. As of Friday 6 March 2020, the EP is now up on Bandcamp!
For context, this EP has four tracks; @JessieYun wrote Track 2 (Twilight), while I wrote Tracks 3 (Dusk) and 4 (AST-GA-BAN). What context I can give in this post are related to Dusk and AST-GA-BAN.
This EP also has quite the harrowing tale behind it; those of you who are following me on Twitter might have seen my longish thread about the feelings behind Dusk and AST-GA-BAN. This post is meant to be the long form of that thread.
The EP, Astgaban, was Aetherhythm's first foray into original stories, lore and songs not tied to the fandom of any video game, particularly the Ar tonelico series. There are many tales to be told that I don't think I have the head to get into right now. Aetherhythm's website for Astgaban has all the stories and artwork associated with the project thus far, you can have some good reads here.
Those of us who were composing on the tracks -- Lystrialle, Jessie and myself -- were given rough prompts of what these songs would be. The first track would be a song of praise and joy; the second track would be a song of harsh history and war; the third track would be a song of expectant hope after war; and the final track would be a song where the deities of our lore, the Starchildren (the Astgaban of the title), sing in reply to the three previous songs of prayer, praise, supplication and hope.
The prompt for Track 3 -- I don't remember the exact words but it went something along the lines of "a soft piano lullaby, building up into a warm swelling feeling of joy as the track progresses later on." I had experience with this, having done a cover of @Phyrnna's Sleep Wrapped in Love all the way back in 2013 with poor mixing skills. The style I used in Dusk, and my cover of Sleep Wrapped in Love, are almost identical -- except that with Dusk, I wrote four-part male harmony for this piece, Geiky wrote lyrics for this piece, and it was beautifully brought forth by Nate.
The music for Dusk was initially written as a long-distance love song for someone back in 2012, with whom I now have irreconcilable differences. In fact, it is also the context behind my AIM 2019 track distance, as these cracks in our friendship began to form a fair few years before I wrote either of the two songs. I despaired that I would never be able to bring the original song to life. It was a beautiful tune.
But seeing the prompt for what would become Dusk gave me a chance to give that old tune a new lease of life.
Dusk was the second of the tunes to start production, and the first to be finished (right up to the mix and master; the mastering for all the tracks was done by @clea). I was just grateful to have put that tune to rest at last.
And finally, track 4 of the EP, AST-GA-BAN, which still fills me with grief that comes in waves.
I should not have written this track.
In mid-December of 2018(?) we had a new member join us, who went by the name AvaliaKasa.
AvaliaKasa was especially known in the Vocaloid community, both for her songs and for her kindness. She was also an old friend of a fair few members of my doujin circle; I knew of friends who'd known her for six years by that point. When she joined us, she was intended to write the final track of the EP, and master the whole thing.
She could not. Just two days shy of the new year 2019, she died in a car crash.
I'd only known her for a few days, and her kindness and laughter touched me. I was excited to have met a new friend; I lost her almost as soon as I'd met her. Others who had known her for far longer than I were beside themselves with grief. For my part, I'd been taking her death pretty badly, weeping and grieving her a lot. And till this day my grief over her death still hits me. I don't know why this is -- nor am I in the position to surmise why.
After some months had passed, I was assigned to write this track in her stead. That track, and the whole EP by extension, would be dedicated to her memory.
I poured all the feelings of grief that I felt -- grief thinking about my friends' grief, and my own grief over having lost this new friend so soon. I didn't know Avalia's style all too well; I simply went with what I knew: quasi-liturgical music, organs, SATB choir, a repeating canon. That would be my outpouring of grief.
Geiky wrote the lyrics, and six of us sang on this: Alroetsue, Lili, Desol_Nonary, Rage, Kenta and myself. The words were of hope and response to prayers, and for my part, I felt them with every fibre of my being. The six of us who sang on the track put out a total of 50 voice tracks to be processed -- a huge number to process for me; I'd never mixed anything that voluminous before. I could hear the emotion in every track. Throughout the time that I was working on the production of this track, I felt that I could not grieve.
Then finally the time came for Clea to give me the master they did on the track. When I listened to it, the last few bars made me weep. I thought to myself then, it's over.
Astgaban was first tabled at the spring M3 convention in Tokyo on 1 March 2020 -- but the coronavirus scare scuppered all hopes of everyone tabling at M3 this time, as the turnout was less than a third of what it would normally be (the venue would normally be heaving with people). The Bandcamp release, which would normally be months down the line after an album or EP is first tabled, happened only five days later. When Alroetsue announced that the EP was finally up on Bandcamp, I wept.
I wept for I don't know how long. I couldn't hold back the tears. I was weeping for Avalia.
I don't know if I'll have made her proud with this track. I cannot presume that I have. If anything, I think that this track can never hold a candle to her legacy. But I hope she is at least at peace.
I think about her, the life she could have had -- and the future we will share.
Because I think about my own mortality a lot, and I know that none of us can ever escape it. Death comes to us all; one day, I will die just like those before me. I only pray that when that day comes, I may be found worthy of the life, light and peace my friends and I wish upon the good people, and the poor, and the sufferers.
Outside of my tendency to write sad songs these days, it has been six months to the date since I started taking drums up formally. I hope I am doing well on that front. My band -- The Just Numbers -- is playing in the centre of Preston on Sunday.
I'm still writing songs. Hopefully I'll have another new one to share with you all in the next couple weeks.
Long post is long, but I had a lot that needed writing down. How have you all been?