I recently worked very hard on creating a mix CD, entitled "The Philosopher." The idea behind the CD was that it would be a collection of tracks, seamlessly edited together that would inspire a trance-like state for the listener. Over the course of eighty-one minutes, the CD is intended to be a unique aural experience. I wanted it to be a collection of film music that would inspire and haunt the listener. Hopefully, it would allow for a non-secular spiritual experience.
This in and of itself would be a worthy pursuit, but there is an additional significance to working on this CD. I created the original version of "The Philosopher" over a year and a half ago, when I first upgraded my CD burning software to Nero (in whose keeping my CD burning projects have remained since). Ecstatic about the possibilities I now had, I sullied forth upon what remains to this day one of my most ambitious projects. "The Philosopher" was the first CD I burned with crossfades, sound equalization and CD-Text, all features that were brand-new at the time and are now standard on all of my CDs (all of my players will display CD-Text in one form or another, it is very useful).
"The Philosopher" is by nature a head trip. It is one that I do not often offer to others owing as to the abstract nature of much of the material included on it. My film score compilations are a craft I have developed in solitude; most of my friends do not share my passion for this art form, and as a result the esoteric "Philosopher" CD is not as accessible as many of the other CDs I have made. Nevertheless, there are a few people that have heard "The Philosopher" and have appreciated it; my friend Raz and Waystone, for example.
The concept behind "The Philosopher" was one that inspired me with many other compilations. The idea of a seamless presentation from start to finish characterized most of my mixes from then on (and perfected with one, entitled "Songs of the Heavens," that to date is a disc I am most proud of in terms of a fusion between mastery of technology and an artistic impulse... it is a collection of some of the most beautiful film music I have heard). Many elements of CDs that I burned afterwards had elements directly inspired by "The Philosopher," and so I had no compunctions about cannabilizing ideas from other mixes to re-incorporate into the revised edition.
The new edition is overall a much more consistant listen than the original. I have kept many of the tracks that were most effective on the original disc (Brian Eno's "Prophecy Theme" from Dune, "Passion" from Peter Gabriel's The Last Temptation of Christ, "Moxica and the Horse" from Vangelis' 1492, etc.), but I have made quite a few alterations. Different selections from the same scores in some cases ("Breaking Away" from Graeme Revell's Dead Calm replaces the end titles, "The River" replaces "Ulysses' Theme" from Eleni Karaindrou's Ulysses' Gaze), elimination of tracks that, through constant listening, have proven not to hold up as well as what may have preceeded and followed them ("Jill Burning" from Simon Boswell's HardWare, "The Rieving Party" from Carter Burwell's Rob Roy, both decent tracks but not fitting with the overall tone of this album). Furthermore, music that was unavailable or not released yet upon the creation of the original CD has been added ("Farewell to Lorien," which was a cue from the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring replaces Gandalf's death from "The Bridge of Khazad-Dum" [which was shortened on the album anyway]).
Paying much more attention to symmetry gives the album a much more even feel as well. A track ported over from the original, "Dark Caravan" from Michael Small's Mountains of the Moon, features a hypnotic ney solo (a ney is an Arabic flute), that is answered towards the end of the album by a Chinese scale flute solo heard in Lalo Schifrin's "Be Happy" from THX 1138, which was not available during the creation of the original CD. Two new editions also act around instrumental solos; "Ghosts" from Thomas Newman's Road to Perdition is responded to by a piano-heavy cue, "Blood On His Face," from Wojciech Kilar's The Ninth Gate.
I also framed the album with the sound of a thunderstorm, which was an idea that I used once before (not very successfully, as I tried to put a small, rainy interlude between each music track; the results were somewhat maudlin, actually, and I don't know why, as listening to the entire thunderstorm CD can be quite relaxing). Although it is only a framing device, it one that I think works in this context.
One of the main advantages to this new edition is that the transitions are very much more polished than those on the original CD; in an attempt to take advantage of the then-brand-new ability to crossfade tracks, I forced crossfades onto tracks that didn't always work together. I was learning the technology as I was using it; I have more prelim mixes of "The Philosopher" than any other album I have created. My enthusiasm, however, leaves a certain raw magnetism to how some of the transitions on the original work (mostly towards the beginning of that album) that makes me realize that I will still listen to that original disc.
Overall, I found it a very interesting experience to revisit material that I had worked on before. Many of the selections had already been made, and I knew better what would and would not work owing as to the year and a half I have spent listening to the previous version. This was not an inopportune time to have made the revision; I am preparing a book of CDs for Suitboyskin (for private, home use only, of course), and he has, for the most part, heard only mixes I have made that fall into the "sampler" category (the exception being "Fantasy Adventure," a soundtrack to a large-scale epic story that the listener can make up for themselves), and are not representative of what I am capable of when I am actually struck by an idea that can be expressed this way. The original was created when I was finishing work on my film, which was something of a creative peak for myself; the screenplay I am currently collaborating on is coming closer to being completed, and I find myself in a similar artistic position as I did then.
I have, in the past, gone back and redone other discs I created. My current 3-disc "Risk" set is the fourth generation for that purpose (the original was a tape I still have). The Jenga mixes have gone through several manifestations (mp3 technology is taking over that one), and the mix I created called "Drivin'" combines several ideas, most of which came from my first "concept album," the prospective soundtrack album from California Or Bust (one day, one day...). This is the first time I went back for a full revision of something with such a specific agenda (the CD, that is, not my creation of it), and the experience was a positive one. I do, however, value the original version of "The Philosopher" so it will not be going anywhere anytime soon...
01. Prelude / Thunderstorm (0:33)
02. Opening: Let There Be Light (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) (0:43)
03. The Trip to Arrakis (Dune) (2:33)
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
04. Hashish (Total Eclipse) (3:35)
05. The River (Ulysses' Gaze) (4:49)
06. Tales of the Future (Blade Runner) (4:37)
07. Dark Caravan (Mountains of the Moon) (3:01)
08. Ghosts (Road to Perdition) (3:37)
Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Roger Eno
09. Prophecy (Dune) (4:14)
10. Passion (The Last Temptation of Christ) (7:34)
11. Moxica and the Horse (1492: Conquest of Paradise) (7:01)
12. High Fever (Jacob's Ladder) (5:00)
13. Dream (Liebestraum) (1:14)
14. The Death of Grandma (Map of the Human Heart) (1:00)
15. Blue Room (Legend) (3:06)
16. Masked Ball (Eyes Wide Shut) (3:35)
Mike Figgis, Brian Banks, Anthony Marinelli
17. Ethereal (Internal Affairs) (1:32)
18. Breaking Free (Dead Calm) (6:21)
19. Be Happy (THX 1138) (3:57)
Ned Rifle, Jeffrey Taylor
20. Opening (Amateur) (2:35)
21. Farewell to Lorien (The Fellowship of the Ring) (4:33)
22. Blood On His Face (The Ninth Gate) (1:08)
James Newton Howard
23. Humanity Goes On Trial (Snow Falling On Cedars) (4:26)
24. Finale / Thunderstorm (0:29)