Airship hangars are specialised buildings that are used for sheltering airships during construction, maintenance and storage. Rigid airships always needed to be based in airship hangars because weathering was a serious risk.
“Hangar”, the first track on Airship, was inspired by Hangar No. 1 at Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst (pictured above). The music describes the interior of the enormous building with driving synths, hovering strings and atmospheric percussion. I cannot wait for you to hear it!
Since the theme of Airship is aviation, I thought I’d share High Flight, the sonnet that made poet and aviator John Gillespie Magee, Jr. famous. I first came across it in “January 28, 1986”, a short track by Owl City from All Things Bright and Beautiful (2011). The track samples Ronald Reagan’s Challenger disaster speech, in which he borrows from the first and last line of the sonnet. When I looked the sample up, I discovered High Flight. I loved it, instantly. Magee’s words are like aeroplane wings, cutting through the aether—brilliant, proud, joyous and free:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Magee wrote the sonnet just months before his death in a mid-air collision. It was 1941—he was nineteen years old.
Many years ago, I was introduced to VNV Nation. The album was Futureperfect (2002). From the first minute, I was hooked. The track that captured my imagination most was “Airships”, the final track on the album. It planted the seeds for what ultimately became my own Airship, nearly a decade and a half later. Their lyrics describe someone watching an airship as it flies above a city, reflected in the skyscrapers, “splendid and graceful”. The onlooker joins a host of others, amazed and rejoicing at the sight:
I was not alone, I think it was the first time
Watching you rise splendid and graceful.
I cheered as you sailed, a greatness unknown,
I laughed as I waved, imagined you saw me.
In the streets of the city, the windows of buildings,
A million faces gazing upwards in wonder,
A million faces together and cheering and smiling!
You were the warmth of their hearts, you were the sum of their dreams.
In the coldness of morning you brought warmth to their lives,
Giving this feeling of wonder I could not imagine,
You unlocking these thoughts no book and no picture could ever convey.
This feeling and morning had opened a door.
I stepped into a new world, I watched you fly,
Saw you as a friend, the spirit of dreams,
Imagined a new world, lands far away,
And imagined those faces as you hung in their sky.
— From “Airships” by VNV Nation, Futureperfect (2002)
I breathe a sigh of longing whenever I listen to that song; it is otherworldly and inspiring. It describes what I felt when I wrote the music for Airship. I wanted to capture and convey that feeling of wonder. I hope I have succeeded.
With the pre-order of Airship available, I am happy to share “Silently You Sail”, the fifth track on the album. “Silently You Sail” began as a sketch piece about radio airwaves. I imagined them traveling through the air, delivering sounds from tower to tower. But when I started working on the album, it seemed to work just as well as a description of an airship in flight.
The track has three melodies. The first is a bass synth humming throughout. It is accompanied by “drops” of sound, gently counting out the pace. The second melody is the main theme, joined in time by an accompanying third melody. They weave unhurriedly along, with an occasional rush of synths, until the conclusion of the track.
Lyrics and a title change (or two)
The track started out as “Recording I”, then became “The View From Above” when I adapted it for Airship, and finally changed to “Silently You Sail” when I introduced lyrics. The lyrics are to be sung by the listener at the 1:20 mark, where the second melody starts. It is a little unusual to expect the listener to do the singing, but I like the idea. The lyrics come from a poem I wrote that fortuitously fit the melody:
Silently you sail
As the daylight yields,
Wondrous flying ship
To forgotten fields.
You can listen to the track on the Music page. If you sing along, let me know! Comment on this post or tweet @forgottenfield? I would be honoured!
I am pleased to announce that the Forgotten Fields Music page is live at music.forgottenfields.co, and that the upcoming album, Airship, is now available for pre-order. I have done this because I am eager to start sharing music, and whilst I am doing all kinds of administrative work related to the album release on 12 December 2016, the pre-order gives me an official opportunity to do so. For the time being, track two (“A Good Day For Flying“) is streamable on the Music page and also on Soundcloud and YouTube. I will add track five (“Silently You Sail”), soon. I hope you like what you hear. Why not give me your impressions in your own review (please share the link with me in the comment section below), or comment on the track on Soundcloud or YouTube, or tweet @forgottenfield? I will definitely read it.
The official cover of Airship shows an airship moving through the clouds, majestic and graceful. We only have a momentary glimpse as it briefly comes into view. That is my favourite part! The black and white hearkens back to the golden age of lighter-than-air flight. I hope you like it as much as I do!
Airship will be available for pre-order as of tomorrow (25 September 2016).
It is now a matter of days before the Airship album becomes available for pre-order. At the last minute, I have decided to make changes to the tracklist. Nothing major, just changes to three track titles to help refine the narrative of the album.
“The View From Above” becomes “Silently You Sail”
The biggest change was to the title of track five, “The View From Above”. When I paradoxically added lyrics describing a view of the airship from below, I faced a dilemma: do I change the lyrics or the track title? I decided on the latter. “The View From Above” is now titled “Silently You Sail”, after the first line from the lyrics.
“Return” becomes “Destination”
The next change was to the title of “Return”, the last track on the album. Originally, this track described the return leg of a round trip flight. But in the light of “Silently You Sail”, it became clear that I was actually describing the conclusion of a voyage. It made sense to change “Return” to the more appropriate “Destination”.
“In the Hangar” becomes “Hangar”
The final change was the least significant, but I wrestled with it for over a month! I removed “in the” from “In the Hangar”, the title of track one. It’s unforgivably overscrupulous, but I think you will agree that it looks neater!
The revised tracklist
A Good Day For Flying
Giant in the Sky
Silently You Sail
The album will be available for pre-order this Sunday (25 September 2016). I am beyond excited!
Sometimes, one is so caught up in a project that one forgets to keep things simple. For days, I’ve been agonising over the Airship album Bandcamp page. I had planned to write an overview of the album concept, as well as track-by-track expositions, walking the listener through the music.
But, I kept hitting a wall. No matter how many times I rewrote the paragraphs, they sounded ridiculous. The album descriptions read like a bad press release—”Sail on the airs of dark melodic soundscapes…”—and the track explanations were like excerpts from a pretentious review—”Strings ease the tension and gently reassure…”—it was beyond embarrassing. (There is a screenshot of my cringeworthy writing below.)
And is made simple again
Today, I came to my senses. There is no need to spoon-feed anyone, everyone can interpret the music as they see fit. And what better album description than the lyrics for “The View From Above”? It felt appropriate, simple and succinct. I breathed a sigh of relief.