Holiday Funk & Blues Event

How I Did It

Breathe the Sun
by Quarkstar
Recommends (22)
Thu, Oct 16, 2014 @ 4:18 AM

Tools I Used

Drums: Ableton Drum Rack with KV Bala Indian Session Samples.
Bass: Serum synth, Quarkstar Patch
Viola: Ableton Orchestral Strings
Bowed Cymbals: Native Instruments Kontakt, Kinetic Metal
Hi Hats: Filtered White Noise, Quarkstar
Resonant Backing: Sackjo22 spoken word through resonant effects. This creates the entire backing melody.


My friend gave me this challenge:
"Look at Lisa Hammer’s Dakini Album and choose a track, using half the instruments, and make it breathable and simple. Really a chance to get back to your musical roots but you don’t have to sound roots. I want a breathy modern edge."

A dakini is an elusive tantric deity that might best be described as a female embodiment of enlightened energy – “she who traverses the sky”, “she who moves in space.” or “sky dancer”.

So my main theme is "traversing the sky", a procession moving in daily cycles through the sky and the second theme is “sky dancer", I heard the dance theme as being slow and stately.

For rich choral female vocals my go-to singer is Sackjo. Breathe the Sun has the right procession feel and the words are perfect too "breathe the sun", "arms of light reach heaven", "night watches dreams”. The song is also right on target, travel and space - voyager.

For me its very easy to describe the mechanical parts of the composition, but very hard to describe how I got the emotional resonances. I guess thats true of all music. Here is a technical explanation of the tune.

The structure of my tune is eight x 16 bar sections:
8 bar Intro, 8 bar End Phrase, A, Chorus, A, B, Chorus, 8 bar A, 8 bar Chorus with End Phrase. The End Phrase starts and ends the tune, forming a cycle.

BPM is 120, but is probably half time at 60 BPM.

Sackjo’s samples lack the necessary dance element and I created that by repeating her spoken word in dance rhythm using delays. Then I put her voice through six Resonators tuned to a Cm7 chord and turned the resonators on and off in beats to create the tune. The vocal only contained a few frequencies so at first only a few resonators worked*, I put her spoken word through a grain filter to create a spread of frequencies and so trigger all the notes of the chord. The grain filter also has the effect of degrading the vocal each repeat, so the words gradually disappear.

The dance melody is delicate and easily swamped by drums, yet its complexity means that you can lose the rhythm. The first A section introduces the dance tune, the bells define the rhythm without swamping the melody. On the third repeat of the melody, section B, I use drums over the top, since the melody is established. I hold back the hi-hats on the A section until the melody is there.

The first A section introduces a drum question phrase, the second A section an answer drum phrase and Section B puts the question and answer together.

The main chord is C minor: C, D# and G. A few times I sneak in a C major. My secondary notes are F# and E. Passing notes are A, A# and F (taken from Sackjo’s harmony).

The Eastern elements come from the Indian drums, also the passing notes and the Viola’s rhythm.

The drums are very plain, sort of processional. I found that any complex rhythms blocked out the melodies. They probably walk a line between hypnotic and boring.

I used the new Serum synth by Xfer Records. Its patches are mostly modern and harsh, great for Dubstep, but after a while patching it, I got some really nice organic bass out of it.

*Resonators work like open piano strings, if you sing at the piano those strings that match your pitch will resonate.

Other Notes

I am always inspired by my friends challenges, she knows my musical preferences and always pushes me into new areas.

The tune came together very quickly as I knew what I wanted to do from the challenge. I took ages getting the spoken word melody to work as I wanted, then I went through many bass sounds till I got the right one. I used Sackjo's harmonies and followed them to work out the chords and transitions and where they changed.