Y Mabinogi – Monasteries, Welsh Words, and a Screaming Guitar
I haven’t posted an update about the new album since early May so it’s about time I brought you up to date!
The spoken word section is done. Recorded, edited, balanced, and dropped into the main recording. I’ve mixed down the recorded songs and dropped those into place. There is only one song left to write and record, so doing that was a good indication of the length of the album and, to be honest, to find out if it would work! So I dropped in the songs, some of which have extended intros so they can lie under the spoken word and the song literally emerges from the words. As I dropped each song into place it was like some magical transformation was taking place. The intros hadn’t been timed, but each one slipped into place and began at exactly the right moment in the story! For instance, as Pwyll turns to face Arawn, just before he steps into Annwn and sees his own face looking back at him the song Annwn begins with a bell chiming. Exactly at that moment! It happened with every song. I think I’m not the only one guiding this project!
So there it was. Nearly two hours long, and ready for two more parts to be added. In my past update I mentioned how the album would begin:
When you get the CD and press play the first thing you will hear is Gregorian-style singing. Then footsteps as the monk walks through the monastery, to the Scriptorium. Opening the door you then hear him sit down and begin to write.
What I didn’t say was, just as you hear the quill begin to move, the voice of the Monk begins speaking the story in Welsh. So I invited my good buddy Kristoffer Hughes down from Anglesey this past weekend to add that voice. He stepped into the recording booth and I pressed record. How magical the Welsh language is. I could barely understand what he was saying, just the occasional word – Pwyll, Glyn Cuch, Pen Llwyn Diarwya, all sounding like some ancient magical spell. It was only about a minute of recording, but it was so important to get it right. I then opened the final file, and dropped his words into place. It was perfect!
I’ve known Kris for years, and we have walked a very similar path with our Druidry. I know how much he adores these tales so it was very important to me that he heard the entire album. To make sure my pronunciation was correct, to make sure the decorations I had added to the tale didn’t detract from the story being told. I felt happy with it all, but even I hadn’t sat down to listen to the entire album from beginning to end, songs and all.
We both needed to take that Journey.
Here is what Kris said on a Facebook post after hearing the album, and returning home:
This last weekend I traveled down to Sussex to record a little bit for Damh the Bards new album. But, I also got to listen to the entire album, weeks before it’s release. He has written original songs to help tell the tale of the First Branch of the Mabinogi, together with the entire story. Now to anyone who knows anything about me, I adore and love these tales, so I must admit to have been a little nervous, just anticipating listening to it.
But oh my Gods! What a treat to my ears it was! I was absolutely blown away and moved, even to tears, which again to most who know me – it takes a lot to move my chilly little heart.
Now that I have returned back home and processed it, I am so so so bloody excited to hear the entire finished, polished thing. It is going to be a treat.
You will all be gagging in delight when you hear it. Bloody marvelous!
Well that was a good thing to read!
The first song on the album begins just before Pwyll meets Arawn. If you are familiar with the tale he has run off Arawn’s hounds from the stag, and set his one upon it when the Grove becomes still and an icy chill turns his breath to mist. The song’s title is a huge tip of the hat the ghost story writer M. R. James whose story Whistle and I’ll come to you revolves around a man finding an old flute in a grave. On its edge is written the words Who is this who is coming? Which was perfect for that moment in the Mabinogi. So Who is this Coming? begins at that point.
After the second chorus the volume is cranked up, and I always envisioned a rock guitar solo there. I was in a Metal band back in the 80s called Targa and we were blessed with two incredible guitarists. One is now in the USA, but the other still lives close to me. We’ve barely seen each other since those days but have reconnected through the wonders of Facebook. It was a no-brainer. I sent Alan the song, and he soon sent me a video of him playing the solo. It was fantastic. Exactly what I wanted. So he is coming to the studio tonight to add that part.
What next? Well, I need to write the final song. It was going to be an anthem to Pryderi, but as the story has progressed I know where the song will go, and it’s very different from that initial idea. Rhiannon has been unjustly punished for murdering her son. In the mean time her son has grown up with Teyrnon and his wife who cannot now deny the similarity between Pwyll and Rhiannon. So they return to Arberth. There, at the mounting block they see Rhiannon, who tells her story, and offers to carry them into the castle on her back. The just punishment for what she did. But then she sees Gwri (Pryderi’s original name) and is told that he is her son. Imagine what feelings go through Rhiannon at that moment – when she realises he is still alive! Imagine the words she whispers into the ears of her son as show holds him close for the first time since he was born. That’s the last song right there.
I’m off to the USA to play some concerts at the Pagan Spirit Gathering next week, but when I get back I’ll be recording that song. Once that’s done I’ll add some sound effects to the story, and some incidental music too. Once that’s done, it’s the artwork, the book, and that’s it!
An Autumn release is looking very likely!