Join Australian violinist and composer Irene Zhong in a baroque-meets-hip-hop trip into urban fantasy audio drama The Godshead Incidental. To create the theme tune for the show, Irene was Influenced by experimental hip hop group Clipping, found sound sampling, irregular time signatures and their classical music roots. An immersive listening experience. Headphones recommended.
The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is called So, So Much to Hold. It’s the title theme from the Godshead Incidental, an urban fantasy audio drama about a writer in a city of gods that may or may not exist. Today, we’ll break it down and get into why and how it was made. You’re listening to How I Make Music, where audio drama composers get to tell their own stories. In this show, we break apart the music of a fictional podcast and take a trip into how it was made. My name is Irene Zhong. I’m a composer and singer songwriter from Melbourne, Australia. And this is How I Make Music. Welcome back to How I Make Music. So, So Much to Hold from the audio drama. The Godshead Incidental by me, Irene Zhong. Thanks for listening in.
The Godshead Incidental is a surreal urban fantasy audio drama about, a city called God’shead, where there are gods. Like minor gods, major gods, gods of grammar and of editing and of memories. We follow our protagonist through her accidental entanglement with the God of Memory. The writers, Amy Giacomucci and Cara Ehlenfeldt reached out to me to write the intro theme as well as a music box theme for this sprawling magical city.
I would say my primary influence for how I approached this track was the experimental hip hop group Clipping. They actually set these constraints for themselves, which is that they can’t use an actual drum kit. They will find percussive sounds like the hissing of a compressed air can, crushing concrete blocks and use that and manipulate that to make their very industrial and violent, almost sounding drums. I tried to do that in the theme as well by using, traffic light clicks and modern sounds. Their stuff is really great. Yeah.
Another track that influenced So, So Much to Hold is Hey Mami By Sylvan Esso. And it’s a track that also combines two very diverse sounds, one of experimental and modern, electronic production and of folk melodies and very intricate, melodic and singing phrases. I actually haven’t heard much of Dessa until I received this commission brief from the Godshead Incidental. I actually don’t know too much about her. She is a rapper. There was just this really passive driving beat behind it. Complex sounds like every beat was giving me so much information. And it almost has the sense of, you know, walking through a really busy city. Like every street corner has so much to…
So when this project was pitched to me, Amy and Cara, the writers sent me the entire script for episode one. And at the end of episode one, there is a monologue. And in that monologue, there is a spoken phrase, and it’s ‘so, so much to hold’. That was the crux of the episode. Everything was building up to that moment and she’s referring to all the emotions and the overwhelm that is in her, but it’s a phrase that can also be interpreted as a description to the setting and the city. Yeah. Everything our protagonist is going through.
I was the vocalist on this track. I’ve always loved singing and making acapella stuff, especially. I think I like to do when composing is take rhythm from the words that inspire them, take a listen to the drum kits. And the clapping sounds. The writers requested that I use a special time signature that that made people feel a little uneasy. Made it difficult for listeners to catch on to regularity. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. I think of 7/4 as three plus four. So I think of it as a halfway between a waltz and a march has this childishness. I tried to write these catchy motifs in the rhythm section. So that the only way you could keep up with this piece is to catch onto them as well.
As inspired by the group Clipping, I really wanted to get some found sound to create my own drum kit, my own percussion section that’s from the city. So I really wanted the feeling of bustle, of busy-ness and machinery and industry. I already had a library of sounds that I keep around such as my Polaroid camera, a typewriter that I borrowed from a friend, some clockwork, the main sound that I had to acquire for this track, So, So Much to Hold, is the traffic lights. So to acquire the traffic light sound. I actually had to go downstairs, in the middle of the night. Wait until it was very quiet and then try and set off the pedestrian crossing near my apartment building to try and get a clean sample. I was in my pajamas and a big jacket. Being a little, little eccentric. Yeah. I love clicky instruments where like, you can hear the instrument working to give you sound. I recorded a typewriter that I borrowed from a friend actually had to work to get the typewriter working because one of the release mechanisms or leavers just wasn’t like. Making the bell go, which is the most distinctive quality of a typewriter!
The writer’s requested that I incorporate the feeling of baroque pop. Luckily I work a lot infusion genre. I like to think that I write the kind of music that can be described as ‘chamber folk’ to represent the baroque element. I created an intricate string part with my violin that wove into each other. And played as almost this, this manic quartet. I’ve played the violin since I was three. So I went into university for violin playing initially, before I went into composing. The slides up the violin…while thinking of the element of baroque pub, I think of how a violin, this classical instrument can also just be very punk rock as well. Um, so I wanted to show off its capabilities as more than just a baroque instrument.
My original song, everything you do. Was the first track that Amy and Cara heard. It was my resume to them, I guess. In the song. I use a lot of strings, unique rhythms and a little bit of found sound as well. And I found out about Amy and Cara through being fans of The Penumbra Podcast. The Penumbra Podcast is…the main storyline is about this new detective, but in future space on Mars. Yeah. Amy and Cara requested that I write a music box version of the same theme so that they can actually put it under the monologue. At the end of episode, one that inspired the theme to begin. Take a listen to it. I am also the composer of the audio drama Ritual Six by Cole Burkhardt. We raised a total of $5,600 to get this podcast off the ground. And it will be premiering early 2020. Catch my music there.
That’s about it for this episode. We’ll listen to the full piece in just a moment, before we do that, thank you for listening to How I Make Music. Catch new episodes on HowIMakeMusic.com or wherever else. We’ve been listening to music featured in the audio drama, called The Godshead Incidental. To hear the full story or to check out my other work, follow the links in the show notes. We video recorded this episode. Check it out and support the musicians of audio drama by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/HowIMakeMusic. Top-tier patrons get a mention right here in the credits of every episode. How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann. And now here’s So, So Much to Hold, the title theme of The Godhead Incidental, in its entirety. My name is Irene Zhong, and thanks for listening to How I Make Music. Catch you next time.
The Godshead Incidental audio drama godsheadincidental.com/
Irene Zhong www.irenezhong.com/
Music: Clipping – Shooter
Music: Sylvan Esso – Hey Mami
Music: Dessa – Children’s Work
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How I Make Music is where audio drama composers get to tell their own stories. In a dramatically edited sound experience, we challenge composers to break apart a song, soundtrack or composition and get into why and how it was made.
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How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann johnbartmann.com