With any album, the songs should have a natural relationship with each other, from beginning to end. They should take the listener on a journey, telling a story in rhythm, mood, arrangement and meaning. This is especially true for instrumental albums. There are many decisions to be made. For example, how do you tell your story? Do you start with a big introduction, mellow out and go big again with the ending? Or do you start quietly and gradually build up to a big finale? Do you end on a high or do you ease the listener out of the experience with a calming piece towards the end? There are many different approaches.
Telling a Story with Music
In my case, things have been made somewhat easier. You see, I went into this album with a concept in mind. I wanted to tell a story, to compose a kind of “soundtrack”, something to accompany a mental image. My story is simple: the first flight of an airship. The image above is a screenshot of my notes on possible track titles. They’re all still working titles, but they follow the narrative of the story. (“Come Take a Trip in my Airship” is a song from the early 1900s, which I may or may not use in some way.)
A Good Day For Flying
It begins “In The Hangar”, where preparations are made. The mood is somewhat serious, everything needs to be perfect before the flight. Then the doors of the hangar open. There is excitement mixed with tension. It is “A Good Day For Flying”, but will everything go according to plan? At last, the magnificent craft emerges. The moment of truth finally arrives as the airship takes to the skies. “Airship” tries to convey a sense of awe at the majesty of the craft as it slowly sails through the air. Some of this wonder continues in the onlookers on the ground, gazing up at the “Giant in the Sky”. The view from below is followed by “The View From Above”. The craft is running smoothly, the air is crisp. There is a sense of calm as heaven and earth drift by… At length, it is time to make “The Return”. Once again, there is a sense of excitement and anticipation as the airship approaches. The pilot is confident the landing will be a success and it is! He makes a graceful landing.
The Next Step
And there you have it, a tracklist of six songs that starts a little tense, rises to a high point and gently comes to a conclusion. At least, that is the general idea! Many of the tracks already exist in demo form, some of them uploaded to SoundCloud. The next step is to refine the music, editing each track so it works on its own as well as in the context of the tracklist. I’ll be asking questions like: should I add or remove an element?; how can I best improve the sound of an instrument?; should a track be self-contained with a start and finish, or should it merge at either point with the track that goes before or after? There’s a lot to be done. But, it’s a very exciting part of making music and I can’t wait to get started!