Low Hopes: the story of "Transmissions"

Updated: Feb 10

I’m in the mood to write. After completing my PhD thesis, (well, not really, I still need to fix some things - it’s a never-ending journey!) I guess the habit of writing stuck.



The short version


A few days ago, I posted on Instagram something in the lines of me missing the stage. Naturally, one might think that I am teasing a return. Well, I have one good and one bad news. The good one is that this Friday, I am releasing a new single consisting of two songs (I know, it’s contradictory). The bad one is that I have no plans to return to the stage yet. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss it. For quite a long time, I’ve been toying with the idea of reworking my older material. What you will get this Friday is the first harvest of this idea.


Transmissions will be the first in a series of reworked older material. While I was at it, I also created a brand-new ambient track which serves as an extended intro to the main offering. I hope you will like this new, definitive version.


The Long version


Low Hopes

I was invited to take place in an exhibition named He/She/it. I don’t remember the brief, but I remember that it was planned to take place on the valentine’s day of 2014. So, what did I do? I grabbed a 19th-century love poem anthology in search of inspiration. Because, why not? I love stuff that is out of place, out of context and out of time, which one might argue is the primary aesthetic of my work.


In the quiet corners of one of my hard disks resides a folder named “Pool”. It is where I keep my half-baked musical ideas, sketches and also discarded material. I resort to the folder whenever I need to work quickly and efficiently, say, while working on a movie or if I have time constraints. It’s quite surprising to rediscover the amount of stuff I churn out and later forget their existence. While working towards the exhibition deadline (or Valentine’s day?), I habitually opened that folder, in hopes that I might surprise myself with a long-forgotten gem! Within that folder, I remember there was a musical idea named Low hopes (your guess is as good as mine as to why I named that particular musical idea as such). The sketch was this very brief chord progression, recorded on my subpar electronic piano, which I mostly use for practice or to come up with ideas. I must have recorded that piano riff on the spot and dumped it into the pool so that it can quietly await its ultimate fate. It was not precisely a gem, but I pulled Low hopes out of the basket anyway while taking that love book to my other hand. The search began for a poem that rhymed well with the music. Ultimately, a poem by Edwin Muir seemed to fit the bill, albeit only one of its stanzas. That was good enough; I’m a quick worker, no time for details at this stage. Anyhow, the lyrics would not be intelligible, or so I planned.


How we got along after the bomb...

In the early 2010s, I was an avid Philip K. Dick reader, reading books one after the other. They each transported me into a new bizarro world, where for some reason I felt at home and wished to stay a tad more when they ended. I think I was working on this piece while reading or have recently read Dr Bloodmoney, or how we got along after the bomb. It is a story full of colourful characters, imagination and enough oddity to last you for years and then some. In there, there is this guy, Walt Dangerfield, an astronaut stranded in Earth orbit, because, of all the time, there happened to be a nuclear war just as he departed Earth. Along with his wife, Dangerfield’s were to be the first colonizers of Mars. When his wife took her own life out of desperation, Walt Dangerfield became a disk jockey, reciting books and playing music from his vast collection while orbiting around the Earth indefinitely. With his radio transmissions, Dangerfield gave the desperate survivors a much-needed hope, and something to wait for. This premise immensely inspired me. It also gave me a way to justify the inclusion of that 19th-century poem. What if, I reckoned, Walt is reciting another verse to the poor survivors, and to their luck, it’s a 19th-century love poem this time around! Life Inside_Outside a Bubble (Bedesten, 2014)


During the exhibition, and while Transmissions were playing in the background, a few people came up to me and asked whether they can find this music online. Because I noticed a considerable interest to that particular track, I decided to keep working on it. I played the piece live for the first time in the following year (2015), where I was invited to perform inside a highly interesting installation, it was named Life Inside_Outside a Bubble. From then on, the track became a staple, usually situated at the first quarter of my Tales From The Future performances. Some of the keener audience members know that between each track at my concerts, there is a visual representation of a computer screen; first the flashing “insert simtape” followed by a loading screen with text that usually hints or otherwise gives depth to the track that will follow. From the first performance and onwards, just before Transmissions began, it was accompanied by “tape inserted > Dr Bloodmoney >> Generating dystopia…” on the screen. I doubt if anyone had ever noticed this little detail in the last five years that I performed this track live. It is just one example of the ridiculous amount of detail and world-building this set had.


Rework? or Remaster?

When 2019 came to a close, I slowly decreased my Tales From The Future performances, and with it, the only exposure the majority of my music had. I only released about two hours of music on the streaming platforms (excluding Soundcloud which I use for demo recordings) when there are four hours of more music waiting their turn. At first, I was hesitant; after all, most of those pieces do not necessarily represent my current direction in music. It took me a long time to come to terms with my older material. But when I finally did, I devised a long-term goal to rework and release them periodically, perhaps interspersed between brand new material.


So, what kind of ‘rework’ are we talking about? Well, it is not a ‘Remaster’, a technical term, in fact, that is familiar to consumers thanks to the financial strategies of the music industry. What I really plan to do is to re-record some parts that I had to rush to complete initially, improve the mix and to bring production values higher. With no particular reason, I chose Transmissions to be the first track in this long process. Firstly, I recorded the vocals from scratch and kept the initial low-quality piano recording as a reminder of its roots, which was no doubt recorded in one take as is expected when one is recording merely a sketch. Secondly, I added tons of new synthesizer parts, including parts recorded using my newly acquired vintage Korg Lambda. I then did extensive editing to flesh out the various intricacies. To complete the package, I recorded a toy glockenspiel, a fun little instrument through which I try to expose my little daughter to some music-making.



The pandemic! During the months that led to the pandemic, I completely reworked the piece. It kind of felt wrong to release something that was produced a long time ago and which was performed several times on my shows, even though the new version would be considerably different. As a result, I created a brand-new ambient track to go along with the release. I went to London in March to attend my PhD viva, the scariest part of the whole PhD experience. In my mind, however, was the relief that Transmissions was almost completed and that I would finally let go of its leash. A few details remained, but that didn’t bother me one bit. I returned to Cyprus on the 11th of March, an astonishing date. The next flight after mine was quarantined (I may be wrong, but that was what I’ve been told). The rest is history, and never before I felt more in the thick of it! For the life of me, I could not come up with the necessary time and the state of mind to finish that one tiny detail during the course of the following two months, the months that will go down in history and will forever stay in our minds. We all went through the stay-home chapter quite differently. However, it is probably safe to assume that families with young children went through a similar phase. From pirate treasure quests throughout our house to Elsa pretend plays, I’ve had my share of playtime with my little daughter during the peak of the pandemic. So much so that it became my full-time job to entertain, feed, clean and occasionally believe I’m actually home-schooling her. I don’t resent a moment of it. Despite the frustration, the odd panic attack at times and the punishingly repetitive daily chores, I believe that what we went through as a family was something special. In the last couple of weeks, when the restrictions eased down, I finally had the chance to sit down and complete Transmissions once and for all. Quite a journey for Low hopes, the short piano riff that once faced the darkness of the oblivion. Every creator at some point in their lives feel their ideas are worth pursuing, and they treat those ideas as their children. They nurture them, watch them grow, and patiently await/work towards their big break, their break into the big wild world. I think I am no different. This is where the child analogy ends, however, because not all ideas are worth investing, but children are. Was Transmissions worth a rework? A re-release? I will let you decide. The point of all this? Nothing really, except that maybe each music that was ever written has its own story, and this is the story of Transmissions. I am letting go of its leash while holding my Tanqueray! Until next time, stay safe! Inal

#process #transmissions #production #creativity #rework #song #newrelease

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