ESA is a song about math, statistics, and the formulae and calculations governing our lives and choices. It’s about the decisions we make given those pressures, and, to some degree, it’s about the slow, steady colonization of our lives. By the man.

ESA by Mappa Mundi

I like chromatic writing a lot. I like the uneasy, shifting feeling that changing harmonies by creeping half steps gives. One can use a pedal tone (or in this case, a tone that gets passed from part to part), while having the harmonic colors shift around it. There’s also some intentional dissonance leading into each chorus, signaling a change in harmonic structure and feel. I think I’m borrowing some of the feel and color of Erik Satie or Claude Debussy (two favorites), especially in the piano sound.

A huge thanks is owed to Mappa Mundians Suzanne Lipkin (violin), and Jason Sagebiel (guitar). Suzanne’s violin tone is so bright and Jason’s guitar has so much bite to it, and both of them nailed fairly tricky parts. Jason, in particular, had to play two parts simultaneously: the chordal hits and the subsequent cello line. I think it’s a cool effect, and it was his idea to do both.

I also added the now trademark distorted, echoing, Pulp-or-Radiohead-esque ukulele sound. Even more Radiohead-esque, I think, is the distorted, ringing tremolo part in the chorus, which is really a violin played through a few effects. Underneath it all is a beat featuring sonar pings, distorted, echoing snare hits and booming (in a good way) kick. I may upload the beat at some point. For academic purposes, naturally.

Lastly, the outro is indebted yet again to Ligeti as much as Phillip Glass, John Adams, or Terry Reilly. It’s composed of strict patterns, each in their own time signatures, phasing with each other, and rejoining every two or four measures. It starts somewhat simply, but as each part comes in separately, it ultimately builds in a unison crescendo, culminating in that ambient ukulele noise. And then, nothing.


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