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Buck Baran | Kubla Khan in Xanadu Did...

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Kubla Khan in Xanadu Did...

by Buck Baran

With his second album of orchestral works, Buck explores the musical representation of literature, art, Mexican cuisine, astral hope, and his wife’s closet.
Genre: Classical: Virtual Orchestra
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Poe's Haunted Palace
8:39 $1.09
2. Virtual Angel
6:05 $1.09
3. Kline: Number 7, 1952
1:28 $0.99
4. Eatin' At Rito's
5:03 $1.09
5. Abelard and Heloise
5:58 $1.09
6. Kline: Black and White No. 1, 1952
1:10 $0.99
7. Kubla Khan in Xanadu Did...
6:21 $1.09
8. The Pajamas in Pamela's Closet
5:16 $1.09
9. Kline: Figure 8, 1952
2:53 $0.99
10. Will It Ever Be Back Again?
7:39 $1.09
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Strategically sequenced and paced, Kubla Khan in Xanadu did... is designed to be listened from beginning to end, uninterrupted.

0001. Poe’s Haunted Palace (8:39)
This originally was a song I wrote the music and lyrics for titled the “The Haunted Castle.” It’s on my first album, “Just Another Hole.” The lyrics were based on “The Haunted Palace,” a poem penned by Edgar Allen Poe. It was composed on the guitar and made use of pedal D against a G Major to E Major for the basic theme. Keeping the song and Poe’s poem in mind I expounded on the original melody line and the chord changes, letting the flow to where it go. Although the chorus in the song version, (“Time to rejoice cries the voice from the castle”), is jubilant and triumphant, it ends on an ominous note, as a warning not to let your guard down.

0010. Virtual Angel (6:06)
The original manuscript is dated 1981. It was called “Visions of April.” The lyrics were written by a friend of the family. In the late 90s, I rewrote the lyrics, naming it, “Virtual Angel.” It’s more metaphysical than romance. A basement band learned it but it was never recorded. It had orchestra written all over it. I kept true to the melody lines but needed a bridge to the chorus; hence the homage to the ascending orchestral dirge found on “A Day in the Life” from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album.

0011. Kline – Number 7, 1952 (1:28)
Franz Kline is an artist whose works intrigue me. This image consists mostly of black vertical lines and some horizontal on a white background. Notated graph paper was laid over the image to denote pitch. Using artistic guessing I determined the order of brush strokes as they would be presented. All strings and scratching effects are employed. There’s some pitch-bending at the bottom for added effect. At the beginning and in between brush strokes, washboards are used to signify the dabbing of a brush into the paint on a painter’s pallet; not that he used one.

0100. Eatin’ at Rito’s (5:03)
Rito’s is a superb Mexican restaurant, one-and-half miles and four stop signs from my home. He serves gourmet Mexican cuisine without the pretense and price, and incredible hot sauces. Every time the wife and I leave there we are so happy. Now imagine Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass smoking some Michoacán and wandering into this Mexican restaurant in search of munchies. After a few fish-bowl Margaritas they change their name to the Margarita Marijuana Munchies Mariachi Band. I detuned the trumpets and kept the libation-influenced performances a little loose.

0101. Abelard and Heloise (5:59)
This music and lyrics date back to 1982 and was called “Eloise.” The E in Eloise sounded abrupt so I changed it to “Heloise” which sounds more feminine. The routine romance lyrics needed replacing; more about the title character. Knowing nothing about any Heloise, I got online and looked her up. And there I discovered the tragic love story of Abelard and Heloise; two well-educated people, brought together by their passion, and then separated by her uncle's vengeance. The first section consists of an intro leading into Heloise’s [verse] represented by flute and violins 1 where she professes her love for Abelard, but with caution for she knows her uncle would not be happy if he were to learn of their affair and yet she is optimistic.
The second intro introduces us to Abelard’s [verse], represented by the trumpets and F-horns, who too professes his love for Heloise, but with optimistic caution.
The first section ends and is replaced with a tribute to the 60s British band, Status Quo and their hit, “Pictures of Matchstick Men.” Heloise’s uncle, Canon Fulbert, learns of their relationship and eventually her pregnancy. This segues into a galloping sequence where they eventually marry in secrecy. But her uncle believes Abelard has cast her off, forcing to become a nun. Heloise’s uncle and his kinsmen pay Abelard a visit. The galloping sequence cuts to an abrupt end in sympathy with Abelard’s short-coming.

0110. Kline – Black and White No. 1, 1952 (1:10)
Using graph paper, the vertical lines were used to designate the time line (bars) moving left to right. An ascending scale (B1 chromatic to C3, C3 whole tone to C5, C5 chromatic to E6) was assigned to the horizontal lines. The approach was to assign various segments of the painting to the orchestra sections. But the mapping of the tones required too many of the same instruments, making it impractical for live performance. But it is still fun to listen to the result.

0111. Kubla Khan in Xanadu did... (6:22)
In 1971 I was offered a chance to get a passing grade from my literature professor if I composed a piano piece based on a poem the class had been studying: Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I had two weeks. I met the deadline and the piece was performed by my theory and piano instructor at her faculty piano recital. The original manuscript has always been in my possession. Some 43 years later, possessing a disciplined mindset unavailable as a 19-year-old, I delved into the poem and compared it to the manuscript. I kept four bars; a 12-tone with clusters and started over.
First off, I wanted to give a musical translation of the poem, adhering to the three stanzas and pacing it with their lines so one could read the poem along with the music. There are instances where the pacing is lost to the music.
The first stanza is the basic theme, powerful but pleasant. The second is dramatic and volcanic (the surviving four bars of 12-tone clusters) with the third ending in recapitulation.
Keeping in mind the four surviving bars, a scale was needed that sounded both Eastern and ethereal. I settled on combining a C pentatonic (C D F G A) with a C# pentatonic (C# D# F# G# A#) creating a 10-tone scale. E natural and B natural are not used.
The piece begins and ends in Bb. Because the E natural and B natural are not used, the key of Bb is a safe harbor. In the third stanza, the Abyssinian dulcimer-playing maid passage is based on an Ethiopian 8-note scale, eze1 mode. There’s some connection between Abyssinian and Ethiopian, so I worked it in. It wasn’t until Friday, February 21, 2014 at a little past noon, when I was listening to the radio in the SUV, that I heard The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan by Charles Griffes , composed in 1917. Very cool!

1000. The Pajamas in Pamela’s Closet (5:16)
My wife has always hinted it would be nice if I wrote a song for her. This is not what she expected. Walking into her closet reminds of Dr. Who’s TARDIS. She disappears in there for what seems like weeks but is only mere minutes to her. I took a tour and hanging among the artifacts were her pajamas; some nice, some not so nice. It was as if I was gawking at pictures from an exhibition; the playful, partying, purring (referencing “Soft Kitty”) and pleasuring (another reference to “The Stripper”).

1001. Kline – Figure 8, 1952 (2:54)
The last of the Franz Kline translations I attempted to make playable by a normal orchestra. Again using graph paper, note pitches were determined along both axes. Starting at the bottom, the horizontal lines represented a C Major scale beginning with C1 and ending with B6 at the top end. The vertical pitch designations were based on a pentatonic scale Db-Eb-Gb-Ab-Bb, starting with Db2 on the left and ending across with Bb7. Time starts and proceeds down the chart. After mapping the coordinates, I determined that mostly single instruments could play the data as arpeggios. Considering the range of pitches, the requirement ended up being: 2 piccolos, 2 flutes, 1 bass clarinet, 1 bassoon, 1 trombone, 1 tuba and a 5-piece string section.

1010. Will It Ever Be Back Again? (7:39)
This dates back to 1982 and was a sad love song called, “Take Me Back Again.” Broadway in mind, it started with a jazzy intro that led into a Bossa Nova groove with a C minor verse and chorus connecting to a C Major bridge, then back to the C minor. Instead of the broken romance, “Will she have me back again?” The approach became one of a spiritual, “Will there ever be another time when humanity reconnects with God?”




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