I remixed Gregorian chant!

I have an account on Indaba Music, which is sort of a social network for musicians, but — like many similar sites out there — they host remix contests to potentially get your music (or remix) on an actual album (for actual money).  A while back they hosted a remix contest for Daft Punk’s soundtrack from Tron, but I was too slow and anyway, most of the really good opportunities cost money to enter (not generally a lot, but still…).  I also missed a Steve Reich remix contest I didn’t even know there was, but they announced the winners.  I was bummed about that.

They announced a remix contest for a New York Polyphony disc of Gregorian chants and I thought “hey, if Delirium can take Gregorian chant and make awesome music, I can at least give it a try, right?” There were three available tracks, but because I only had two “keys” (and each remix required one “key”) — and didn’t really want to get more right now — I had to be selective.  I picked “Victimae Paschali Laudes” because, of the three options, it had the most different stuff going on in the melodies and it seemed to have a bit of a higher tempo.  Still, all that goes out the window because when you’re playing with music like this, there isn’t necessarily a steady rhythm throughout…there’s often rests that are longer or shorter depending on the conductor which makes turning something like this into an electronic piece — which is entirely rhythmic — a bit more challenging.

I started out by creating a modified phase pattern.  Phase patters were most used by Steve Reich when he was playing with reel to reel tapes, and was looping two copies of the same recording and realized they were slightly out of sync because one of the tapes was somewhat shorter than the other.  Rather than calling it bad, he proceeded to use that theory in almost every piece of music he’s written since, creating music that goes in and out of sync with itself.  I’ve played with phase patters quite a bit in the past, and though I haven’t much with them recently, I thought that the breaks in the verses and the way some verses were longer than others would adapt well to phase patterns and be fairly interesting, possibly creating a sort of chorale effect.  I took the first verse and looped it a bunch of times, then I cut off a few seconds of the end and looped that three times.  Then I inserted the second verse.  Looped the first (cut) verse three more times and added the third verse.  Repeat until I’ve worked through all the verses.  Then I mixed the two finished pieces — which were about the same length, and dropped it in my track.  Then I duplicated that, added a vocoder effect that Alvin Lucier would be proud of (because it completely removes any semblance of the original speech), and ran that through my Glitch VST and added a delay effect.  I used that to create the backdrop of the piece.

The rest of the track is an electronica piece hovering somewhere between ambient and dance with a steady beat that’s just slow enough to make people walk off the dance floor.  (That’s okay, because I wasn’t trying to make something you could dance to, and anyway, dancing to Gregorian chant is sacrilegious or something, right?)  I took the first and second verse and made a sort of verse-chorus-verse song structure out of it, and added the last verse — which slows down at the end — and used it to close the song.  Most of the instruments are things that I built for the track — or at least heavily modified — and, as a last-minute addition, I took a snippet of the vocals and looped it, creating an instrument out of that which harmonizes with the lead synth (I didn’t want it to be entirely electronic).

After watching the demo video of the Glitch VST, I realized how woefully little I really take advantage of all the possibilities, so decided to go back and play with the effects live, so make that particular track a bit more variable than it already was.

Anyway, here’s my remix of a Gregorian chant.  The lyrics are about the resurrection and have a lot of the sort of conflicting phrases you see in Catholic liturgy like “he who is dead but is alive” which, you know, reading from a no-longer-in-the-Catholic-church perspective, just sounds bizarre.  The first verse — from which the title comes and the one I sample the most — translates to “Christians, to the Paschal victim offer your thankful praises!” — which also sounds a bit bizarre and morbid.  (If we weren’t talking about, you know, the son of God, at what point would we offer thankful praises to a victim?)  At any rate, I named my remix “resurrection glitch” as a nod to the subject matter.  If you have a minute, vote for my submission.

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