Mike Keneally + Metropole Orkest
The Universe Will Provide
Favored Nations FN2400
THE STORY OF THE UNIVERSE WILL PROVIDE:
This is excerpted and revised/updated from an installment of "Mike Types To You" written on June 23, 2003 (shortly after an early version of the piece was performed at the Holland Festival, and about three months before the making of the album); the revisions, and the section about making the album, were done on August 6 2004.
A lot of people have been curious about how The Universe Will Provide (hereinafter TUWP, since the kids today love acronyms s' damn much) came into being. I am here to serve, serving now:
The small amount of time I had available for composing helped make the idea of integrating three older pieces into TUWP a more attractive one, but I would have included them in any case. These older pieces were:
These three pieces gave us a little head start in putting everything together for this massive project, and there were a few other scattered melodies scrawled on sheet music which I gathered up as well, and which gave us valuable source material at times when I was too exhausted to write something new on the spot.
I composed for a few weeks at my home, at Griff Peters' house and in a few other odd locations, and then brought all the new and old manuscripts and snippets over to Opperman's place, where he typed it all into Finale software. So that became Composition Method One; I write something on paper, Chris types it in, and together we check it out and orchestrate it. If I had already orchestrated it on paper, Chris would type it in that way and we'd check it out. Often Chris would have ideas about what instruments could play certain passages, or ideas about harmonies, or any number of other things, and we'd almost always try his ideas, and sometimes implement them.
For the album, these movements were re-sequenced and five other movements added. The additional movements heard on the album, "Insert Here I," "Insert Here II," "Mwah Squared" and "When Drums Dream," were composed and/or completed after the Holland Festival. "Quiet?" from the album is the opening section of a proposed revised version of "All Of Them Were Quiet"; it wasn't written to be used as a reprise of the second movement, as it ended up becoming, but once it was recorded I realized it could work beautifully that way.
The situation for the performance at the Paradiso on June 8 was not as ideal - we had been very comfortable in our large rehearsal space, and having to fit everything on the smaler stage at the gig and deal with the many sound issues naturally changed the character of the music. Everything felt less controlled, a little bit alien compared to the rehearsals - but still a lot of fun of course, and unfamiliarity doesn't scare me anyway. Preparing all the music and dealing with all the details up to the gig distracted me too much from my role in the piece as guitar soloist, and my playing at the Paradiso gig was generally under par (I tried to find the best of it for use in Parallel Universe). The battery in my guitar died during the performance of "Room" (Dave Gregory reprimanded me later), necessitating a delay of several minutes before playing "Room" again (much better the second time around). Everything about the music felt better after the forced delay. I think the little interruption deflated the tensions of the event very nicely and everyone relaxed into the music a lot more. The performance turned out to be immensely enjoyable for me, and I believe for the orchestra and conductor as well, and the audience responded warmly. Co de Kloet has also told me that the reviews for the piece were in the main favorable, so all in all I consider the evening a success. Vernon Reid also played his own set with the orchestra that night, and I thought that the two pieces worked beautifully together and made for a very enjoyable night of music. Vernon and DJ Logic (who performed on Vernon's piece) were wonderful guys who I hope to get a chance to do more work with.
In September we returned to Hilversum to make the album. This experience was an incredible treat. The music cohered in a way that the Paradiso gig had only hinted at. As Scott has written, the album was "recorded during a sunny, dreamlike week in Holland" - and it really did feel like a dream. It nicely balanced the fact that the first music I'd written specifically for the project, the flute passage, had originally come in a dream. Scott told me afterward that he'd never seen me happier than while we were making the album.
Jurjen Hempel again proved to be a hugely capable and unflappable conductor. He is a beautifully dry character, and could come off as somewhat intimidating but his wit and wisdom are undeniable. (Favorite Hempel memory: him chewing on a huge cigar by the Paradiso bar after our performance, able to relax finally, smiling and entertainingly critiquing Vernon's set in a uniquely Dutch sort of way.) During the album sessions he moved from chart to chart dazzlingly, insisting on accuracy and giving us loads of different good takes to choose from.
The Metropole Orkest is fantastic. The musical flexibility afforded by having a full-fledged orchestra with jazz/rock rhythm section, including electric bass and guitar, suited this music perfectly. At one session I announced that I wanted a small sub-section of the orchestra to come in the following day to record some improvisations. A member of the violin section, Herman van Haaren, asked if he could bring in his electric violin and play - I said sure. His playing on the middle section of "Four Slices Of Toast" gives a very tangy flavor to that piece and helped the album out a lot - thank you Herman! And I was delighted to work again with Bart van Leir, who'd been the trombonist for "Nonkertompf Live" in Groningen in 2001. His spirit is fantastic and it just bubbles from his instrument.
It was decided that I'd overdub my guitars and electric piano parts once the orchestra sessions were complete; advisable for reasons of expediency and electro-acoustic practicality. It also meant that I could take extra time to get my parts done, but still there was much less time budgeted for guitar overdubs than I would normally have for one of my albums. The majority of the guitar overdubs were done in one day. I had brought my Strat with me, and hired for me were an SG, a Telecaster, a ES-335, and an acoustic (we didn't have a Taylor handy so I won't mention the brand...). Also a couple of different Fender amps, a Marshall stack and I think another Frankensteinian sort of thing that I don't remember the name of. And a nice old Fender Rhodes, which George Duke played briefly when he came to visit one of the sessions - I could still kind of feel him on the instrument when I recorded my solo on "Room" later that day.
Choosing takes, sequencing, and pinpointing and digitally correcting errors in the performances took several days and was a shockingly enjoyable process. I was fairly stunned when I learned that the album was going to be recorded in Pro Tools, but when I saw Gert de Bruijn remorselessly hunting down mistakes and making them go away while still leaving the music sounding natural and unaffected, I was sold. Gert Jan van der Dolder is what is traditionally referred to as "balance engineer," a not terribly descriptive title. What he would do is read the score while we were listening to the different takes, and if he or I heard a mistake, he'd instantly locate the transgressor on the written score, tell Gert de Bruijn from which orchestra section the offending note or passage was emanating, and de Bruijn would hunt it down in Pro Tools and make it right. This was howlingly fun and there was laughter constantly, which helped us get through the long arduous days of what could have been stressful work - we were on a strict deadline and we knew it, and I was pushing them hard, with a million demands for balance adjustments and clam removals. I loved this process so much.
There's a little hotel in Hilversum where we always stay when we're there. I have a room on the second floor in the front, with a balcony where I love to sit and listen to birds and bicyclists. When I got the final mixes for the album, I opened the double doors to the balcony and stretched out on the bed, looking outside while listening to the album for the first time. The first time hearing a finished album is always pretty special; this was completely otherworldly, the most intensely pleasurable first-time album-listening experience for me ever. I felt overwhelmed by gratitude.
So I gotta sing, dance and otherwise convey deepest thanks to Co, Scott, Oppy, Peter Van Hoogdalem, Jurjen, Gert and Gert Jan, the Metropole Orkest, everyone involved with NPS and the Metropole and the Paradiso and everyone who's heard the music...thank you, all of you, for making TUWP a reality and for an immensely educational experience. Let's do another one!
Chris Opperman's notes on the first composition session for The Universe Will Provide:
"Just Flutes" Sketch 1.2 edited
THE METROPOLE ORKEST - LINE-UP
The Universe Will Provide is the first album I've done where I didn't have final say over all artwork choices - despite my cajoling, I wasn't able to get the orchestra members' names listed in the album art, because it didn't conform to the design choices dictated by NPS Output (TUWP is the first album in a series of collaborations which will be released by NPS Output, involving the Metropole with a succession of composer/performers, and there's an overall design arc which will remain constant through the series). However Co de Kloet kindly supplied us with the following list -- not everyone on this list played on the album but I include them all because I don't want to leave anyone out accidentally, and they really are a superb orchestra who performed heroic feats with this music. Thanks and more thanks to:
Produced by Mike Keneally
Executive Producer - Scott Chatfield
Creative Catalyst - Co de Kloet
Edited by Mike Keneally
Mastered by Scott Chatfield
Metropole Orkest conducted by Jurjen Hempel
Orchestrated by Mike Keneally and Chris Opperman
Studio recordings from MCO 3, Hilversum, Holland, recorded Sep 11-22 2003
Studio recordings engineered by Gert de Bruijn
Balance engineer Gert Jan van der Dolder
Live radio mix from the Paradiso, Amsterdam, June 8 2003
Live recordings engineered by Gert de Bruijn
Finale MIDI files orchestrated and engineered by Mike Keneally and Chris Opperman 2002-2004
Video camera audio excerpted from video footage shot by Scott Chatfield and Chris Opperman during June and September 2003
Design - Atticus Wolrab
Photography - Scott Chatfield
Thanks to Steve Vai, Willem van Beusekom, Pieter Van Hoogdalem, everyone at NPS Output and Favored Nations, Josephine Veldhuyzen and Jesse Keneally
Composed by Mike Keneally © 2004 Spen Music BMI
"Co/MK" is an improvisation by Co de Kloet and Mike Keneally
Special thanks to the musicians who took part in all the improvisations
(P) 2004 Exowax Recordings
About the music on Parallel Universe:
I put this album together from four basic sources:
Source One) The Finale computer music files which Oppy and I listened to while preparing the charts. As Oppy would input the music into Finale music notation software, we were able to hear the music played back, in mono sound, using the internal sound card in Oppy's computer. For Parallel Universe, in July 2004 we remixed and remastered these Finale files at TAR Studio by playing them through Oppy's Korg Triton keyboard and into Pro Tools. We were able to use the superior keyboard samples in the Korg, and also used the onboard mixing capabilities of the Triton to specify distinct stereo placement for each of the sixteen channels.
Source Two) The live recording of The Universe Will Provide, performed by me and the Metropole at the Paradiso in Amsterdam on June 8 2003.
Source Three) Studio outtakes from the Universe Will Provide album sessions, Hilversum, September 2003.
Source Four) Audio soundtrack excerpts from video footage shot by Scott Chatfield and Chris Opperman during the whole process.
Plus a little bit of audio done on Pro Tools in TAR Studio at Chatfield Manor.
Parallel Universe hops, higgledy-piggledy, from one of these sources to another constantly, sometimes layering more than one of them simultaneously. Below is a song-by-song guide to where all this music comes from, with background information of varying degrees of relevance.
a) Dream Flutes (0:00 - 0:19)
Finale MIDI file. This is an attempt to recreate dream flute music. I had the dream in the early 80's, and it was about Michael Mantler's album The Jazz Composer's Orchestra (from 1968). At the time of the dream I hadn't heard the album yet - when I finally heard it, it sounded nothing like this (I don't think there are any flutes on it at all - haven't heard it in years). So it was fun to try to recreate the music, since it seemed like the only way I would ever get to hear it. This flute passage was eventually used for the beginning of the TUWP track "Not Just Flutes."
b) Excerpt from Studio Improv 2 (0:19 - 3:35)
Studio outtake from TUWP. This is from the second of three improvs recorded with a sub-section of the Metropole; this session was convened to get material for the middle section of "Four Slices Of Toast" on TUWP (for which I ended up using most of "Studio Improv 3").
c) Excerpt from live All Of Them Were Quiet (3:35 - 4:07)
From the live performance at the Paradiso. For a few seconds after 3:35, you can hear a little of "Studio Improv 2" still playing simultaneously with this live excerpt.
d) Clam Up, You Guys (4:07 - 4:26)
Finale MIDI file. A small piece of writing unused for TUWP.
2. MWAH ORIGIN
Finale MIDI file. This is the original piano improvisation, from which "Mwah Squared" on TUWP was orchestrated.
3. THE BIG TIGER
a) Excerpt from Piece of Toast (0:00 - 0:44)
Finale MIDI file. This is part of an early version of "Four Slices Of Toast."
b) Excerpt from live Four Slices Of Toast (0:45 - 4:01)
From the live performance at the Paradiso. From 1:05 - 1:42, you can also hear sections of the MIDI "Piece of Toast" file playing along with the Paradiso recording - for instance, on the fast trumpet lines starting at 1:18, you can hear the real trumpets from the Paradiso on the left channel, and the MIDI trumpets on the right channel.
The Princess And The Pea
An unused piece of writing which was once intended as the finale (or "Credit Sequence") for TUWP. It was recorded in a rough version during the album sessions but there wasn't enough time to complete it for TUWP, which is probably fine since "Bullies" works perfectly well as a finale. On this recording, we toggle back and forth between the MIDI file and an orchestral studio outtake:
c) Princess and the Pea MIDI file (4:01 - 4:35)
Some guitar from the Paradiso "Four Slices Of Toast" can be heard playing along with this MIDI file for the first few seconds, and makes a little cameo appearance in the background at 4:18.
d) Princess and the Pea studio outtake (4:36 - 4:52)
e) Princess and the Pea MIDI file and studio outtake layered together (4:53 - 5:16)
At the end of this small chunk, a solo guitar enters and continues through the entire next section - my guitar here was overdubbed in Pro Tools at TAR Studio in Leucadia, July 2004 (engineers - MK and SC). This was a fun overdub - I played direct into the computer and tried using a plug-in amp simulator but it wasn't happening. So Scott suggested using my direct solo, but running out of the computer, into my Rivera amp, mic'd up and sent back into Pro Tools. Hearing the solo playing itself coming out of my amp was eerie but distinctly enjoyable.
f) Princess and the Pea studio outtake with overdubbed guitar solo (5:16 - 7:05)
g) Princess and the Pea MIDI file for last long note (7:05 - 7:16)
h) Excerpt from live Four Slices Of Toast (7:17 - 9:45)
From the live performance at the Paradiso, this is part of the improv from the middle of "Four Slices Of Toast." Starting at 8:15 or so, through to the end of the piece, the trumpet and sax solo sections, which were actually performed one after the other at the show, are layered so that you're hearing both sections simultaneously.
4. LIBBY'S WEBSITE
a) Video soundtrack excerpt (0:00 - 0:39)
Voices: Co de Kloet, Josephine Veldhuyzen, Mike Keneally. We were standing in a parking lot and Scott was circling us with the camera.
b) Libby's Website (0:39 - 1:19)
Finale MIDI file. Piano improvisation, to provide source material for TUWP but unused. Orchestrated as a virtual piano/marimba duet during the July 2004 Finale file mixing/mastering session with Oppy.
a) Excerpt from Room demo (0:00 - 1:45)
Finale MIDI file.
b) Video sountrack excerpt (1:45 - 2:42)
Opperman chasing me with a camera through the hallways of MCO 3 studios in Hilversum during the TUWP sessions. At the end we enter the control room where "Room" is being listened to by the engineers.
c) Rejected Room (2:30 - 2:57)
Finale MIDI file. The beginning of this overlaps with the end of the last section. This is Chris Opperman's scary re-orchestration of the main "Room" theme which he thought might find a place in the final TUWP selection (the title "Rejected Room" indicates my feelings about that).
d) String overdub from All Of Them Were Quiet (2:57 - 3:34)
Video soundtrack excerpt. This is footage of the string section of the Metropole doing an overdub during the TUWP sessions; on a couple of songs we overdubbed additional strings onto the complete orchestra recording, to strengthen the sound of the section and to clarify passages needing help.
e) Excerpts from All Of Them Were Quiet demo (3:31 - 5:35)
Finale MIDI file. The section starting around 4:30 features a lot of writing that's a little hard to hear on the finished version because guitar and drums are raging over it. Starting at 5:21 some layering begins to occur:
f) String overdub from Bullies (5:21 - 6:17)
Another video soundtrack excerpt from TUWP string overdub session, playing simultaneously with the "All Of Them Were Quiet" demo until that cuts out at 5:35.
g) MK @ Piano at Co's house (5:35 - 6:00)
Video soundtrack excerpt. This is me messing around on Co's piano. I thought the figure I was playing sounded kind of spooky layered with the "Bullies" string overdub.
h) Excerpt from All Of Them Were Quiet demo (5:57 - 6:17)
Finale MIDI file. This insinuates its way into the mix as the "Bullies" string overdub continues scraping along.
i) "Sorry, I was confused" (6:18)
Video soundrack excerpt. Me, during guitar overdub session, being confused.
j) String overdub from All Of Them Were Quiet (6:19 - 6:37)
Video soundtrack excerpt. String overdub on coda of TUWP track. Some of the orchestration on the completed TUWP is very dense, so it was especially fun for me to include fragments like this on Parallel Universe, allowing a closer listen to some of the counterpoint which is kind of hidden in the score.
k) Ending of original All Of Them Were Quiet demo (6:38 - 6:47)
Finale MIDI file. Very early psychotic version of the ending of "All Of Them Were Quiet."
a) Princess And The Pea reprise (0:00 - 0:17)
TUWP studio outtake.
b) Studio Improv 1 (0:06 - 4:34)
TUWP studio outtake. This is the first of the three improvisations recorded during the "Four Slices Of Toast-middle improv" session with the smaller group. The section from 0:43 - 0:56 was used on TUWP at the end of "When Drums Dream."
Finale MIDI demo. Edited excerpts from the demo of "Bullies," including a number of passages edited out of the final version.
a) Excerpt from live Archaic Peace Strategies (0:00 - 0:59)
From the live performance at the Paradiso.
b) Video soundtrack excerpt (1:00 - 1:15)
Opperman and me in Scott's hotel room, singing along with a CD of a rough mix from that day's studio sessions.
c) Live Spoon Guy (1:15 - 2:40)
From the live performance at the Paradiso. My utterly inexplicable guitar performance on this piece is part of what convinced me not to include guitar on the studio version on TUWP.
a) More Princess And The Pea (0:00 - 1:36)
Finale MIDI demo. Yet more excerpts from this unused composition - Oppy and I must have put together ten different versions of this song, only to run out of time to complete the orchestral version during the studio time booked for TUWP.
b) Video sountrack excerpt (1:28 - 1:49)
Herman confirmin' that I'm happy in the hallway in Hilversum. He's happy too. We're happy!
c) Excerpt from Studio Improv 2 (1:50 - 3:27)
TUWP studio outtake. The end of this performance (the five sad-sounding chords) was also used as the beginning of the middle (improv) section of "Four Slices Of Toast" on the TUWP album, whereupon it switches over to "Studio Improv 3" (with Herman's outrageous violin soloing).
Video soundtrack excerpt. This is Co de Kloet on saxophone and me on piano, improvising in Co's front room. Oppy's running the camera and laughing when the music sounds especially good to him. Scott and Josephine are in the kitchen, banging silverware around.
11. BLUE 69
Pro Tools demo. I did this in Tar Studio sometime early in 2002, while I was beginning to work on some songwriting demos for the Dog album. The vocal melody was improvised, then doubled, then all additional orchestration placed around it. I later decided to use a simplified version as the opening movement for TUWP.
It was a pretty sudden, unexpected decision to make Parallel Universe at all - feels like it happened almost accidentally. We're very happy with the results. I hope you find it a saucy listen.
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