Home Page Works Series 1-Quest To Be Whole Album 8-Compatriot
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What we are trying to accomplish may need some explanation. When you look at the individual concept albums, you will notice the albums do not necessarily fit together into the series the way chapters fit together in a novel to form a plot. The 'plot' of the series is symbolic instead of being a story. In other words, the series contains stories, but the series itself is actually a metaphor. Further, the albums are self contained, so there can be significant overlap in subject matter. The linkage is further obscured by the fact that the concept albums do not all follow the same structure. Some of the concept albums are theme driven, others story driven, and still others are allegories.

When you look at the individual songs, you will find the same situation as to how they fit together to form a concept album. For instance, you will find a song that begins in despair and ends in hope followed by another song that also begins in despair. This means the plot of the album is not necessarily a clear line of one event followed in time by another event.

The reason for this is that the songs were not written to be part of a concept album. The songs were written on their own, without assuming a particular album context. As you can see, this makes the album joinery somewhat rough.

The offset to this deficiency is that the songs themselves are both more spontaneous and self contained. The songs are written directly from the experience, from the heart. Then the context is created to bring out the traits in the songs, in essence as a form of contextual puzzle making. We have a large number of songs, so we look at what the songs are saying as a group. It is the voice of the songs as a group that determines the concept albums and the album series. In this way we have been able to achieve both emotional creativity and intellectual depth in a way that would not be possible had we proceeded in any other fashion.

We could have started from a cut and dried idea and used that as the inspiration for the songs, writing each to fit in their place. This would have left us with a number of essentially dead songs, because we would not have cared about the songs apart from their preconceived context. Conversely, we could have been very creative in writing the songs from our observations of the world and just set them forth as is, but that would have lacked any more than an accidental structural unity.

In some ways what we have done is what I have heard was done in the making of the film, Good Morning Vietnam, where the director left Robin Williams free to ad lib, but would then take the ad lib, make it part of the script, and have him do the ad lib over and over until it was exactly right. We have taken our creations wherever and however they came to us, but have then worked very hard to polish and structure these creations into an overall unity, yet without polishing all the life out of them.

This is not to in any way imply the concept album and series are just thrown together, nor that we just make up a meaning for a song so it will fit. The full genuine context of a song is greater than might appear. There are several areas in a song from which the meanings used to form the contexts are drawn.

One area is what the song is about as a whole. The author has a great advantage here because, as every author knows, what makes it to the final draft is a small fraction of the actual experience. For instance, in Falling, the central imagery is obviously drawn from the myth of Icarus. What complicates this is that the song does not itself really tell you anything about my experience with this myth. Icarus has been featured in hundreds, if not thousands of works. One instance is on the Masque album by Kansas, which has set off many image streams in my head, all of which are, for me, related to Icarus though they may objectively have nothing to do with the Greek myth. Obviously this kind of background experience is beyond the communication reach of a simple song, but is fair game when we are creating an external context for the song.

Another area providing material for context building is the song's setting. Does it have a definite time, like morning; a definite location, like a museum; a definite audience, like ones child? Anything like this can be used to place a song into a context stream.

Another area is the song's subject matter. For instance, Performers does not directly mention the U.S. uses a disproportionate percentage of the world's energy when compared to our percentage of the world's population. Yet this is valid context material simply because it is a part of the subject matter's context.

Another area is incidental meanings of words and images. For instance, in the song The Dark Wall, the imagery of a wall could be used to bring in context from other walls like the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China, and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. It would be fully appropriate to draw relations between these walls and the Vietnam Memorial. Another example would be the use of the word "crevasse" in Walls Made of Glass. This would open up a setting like a trek across a glacier should that work in the overall context.

Clearly, any song of substance provides a great deal of relevant material from which to create a context. It will enrich your experience to pay attention to which subset we chose. Asking why the artist chose a particular alternative often provides insight into the artistic process which is invaluable to increasing the 'depth perception' of the communication. This is why the songs have more than a line or two of description/context. If we are going to work the songs in more than one context, on more than one level, then it is our duty to help you see these levels.

This is important because understanding reality is important. The real world is so incredibly vast, so unimaginably complex, that human beings can only understand things when we step back and process an experience into our existing accumulated world view. Given the intricacy of the ideas we are trying to communicate, we must break the ideas down into units, then draw relationships between these units. In the instance of Mirror Covenant, the units are songs.

The bottom line has been the songs. If something is right for the song, it stays no matter how it fits with a plot. If something would work well for a plot but mar the song, it does not go in. What emerged from this process is storytelling with some jumps and rough spots, but which we feel has a deep level of unity nonetheless. We hope you will find cause to agree.

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