Enigmatic Voyages


Gino Foti - Enigmatic Voyages Track Listing
  • Navigando Verso Il Destino (10:52)
  • Drifting Through Lost Latitudes (10:17)
  • I Looked Upon The Rotting Sea (11:50)
  • Altering One's Aspect To The Sun (10:10)
  • Fata Morgana (10:46)
  • Between Scylla And Charybdis (11:53)

Credits

Gino Foti - MIDI Bass Guitar, MIDI Bass Pedals, Keyboards, Synthesizers, Samples

Overview

After dedicating the last few years to one genre, and playing what seemed like a trillion notes on both bass guitar and piano, it was time for a sonic pendulum swing. As always, the problem was finding something that was going to resonate so loudly, that I would be able to spend the numerous man-hours required to complete a project.

Over the years, I have accumulated dozens of keyboard/synthesizer and MIDI bass guitar-based miniatures that I have used as introductions, interludes, backgrounds, etc. on my world fusion releases, and thought it might be interesting to take some of these pieces and develop them into longer compositions.

Given that the emphasis would be on atmospheric sounds and layered textures more than structured melodies and lead/solo breaks, I decided to exclude, or remove, all ethnic instruments and rhythms from the files, and add more elements of ambient, classical, drone, film score, meditation, and related genres where needed.

Despite the eclectic nature of the music, the compositions share some influences, inspirations, and sounds, so a concept was appropriate. Born and raised on the island of Sicily, I have always been drawn to the sea. I envisioned the harbor of my birthplace, Messina, where vessels that had traveled extremely long distances were briefly gathered together -- except that the colors of their flags of convenience, names on their hulls, and other registration marks were faded and indistinguishable.

Author and satirist Douglas Adams once said, "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." Like Mr. Adams, and several ancient navigators, my destination was different than what the original charts indicated, but the port of calls and shore excursions I experienced along the way made this voyage even more enjoyable.

Composition Notes

Navigando Verso Il Destino

"You can be the Captain
I will draw the chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the heart"
~ Neil Peart, Closer To The Heart

This composition was influenced by the Italian composers Ottorino Respighi and Antonio Vivaldi - primarily their symphonic poems, as well as the middle/slower movements of their orchestral works.

Reflecting the styles of both masters, it features a blend of Baroque and Modern Classical, using instrumentation of ambient pads, classical strings, drones, and synth vox.

In case it is not obvious, the title is Italian for "Sailing Into/Towards Destiny".


Drifting Through Lost Latitudes

"Set off on a night-sea journey
Without memory or desire
Drifting through lost latitudes
With no compass and no chart

Flying through hallucination
Distant voices, signal fires
Lighting up my unconscious
And the secret places of the heart"
~ Neil Peart, Nocturne

This arrangement was influenced by ambient musicians and minimalist artists like: James Johnson, Robert Rich, and Jesse Sola (aka Numina), who I became familiar with through their catalog of (then Sonic Foundry's) ACID loops and samples.

The preliminary files were completed very late one night, so I used "Nocturne" as a temporary title. Since it incorporates dream-like moods, I recalled the lyrics from my favorite rock band for the completed mixdown, which fit perfectly with the album's concept.

Instrumentation is the same as above, but with more space music elements and drones, both via MIDI bass guitar.


I Looked Upon The Rotting Sea

"Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust."
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Part IV)

In my youth, I enjoyed reading the poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, especially since they had provided the inspiration to epic compositions by some of my favorite bands (and bass guitarists) such as: Rush's Xanadu (from Kubla Khan) and Iron Maiden's The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.

Given the subject matter, this piece includes more elements of dark ambient music. Classical string section was minimized, and synth vox/choir eliminated. Using my MIDI bass guitar, I was able to use various effects to generate sounds alluding to waves, wind, foghorns, etc., and to alter them in real-time over the keyboard bed tracks.


Altering One's Aspect To The Sun

"These are the soul’s changes. I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism. And to alter now, cleanly and sanely, I want to shuffle off this loose living randomness: people; reviews; fame; all the glittering scales; and be withdrawn, and concentrated." ~ Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

Influenced by space music artists that I grew up with, like: Tangerine Dream, Sun Ra, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, the title refers to the nautical term aspect ratio, as well as ancient modes of navigation where the Sun was the most commonly used celestial body, along with the visible horizon, to help locate a ship's position.

To sonically mirror our solar system, I constructed several individual sounds of varying measures that orbit around a central complex background. The moving drones underneath were influenced by the "singing bass" arrangements of Johann Sebastian Bach.


Fata Morgana

"O sweet illusions of song
That tempt me everywhere,
In the lonely fields, and the throng
Of the crowded thoroughfare!

I approach and ye vanish away,
I grasp you, and ye are gone;
But ever by night and by day,
The melody soundeth on.

As the weary traveler sees
In desert or prairie vast,
Blue lakes, overhung with trees
That a pleasant shadow cast;

Fair towns with turrets high,
And shining roofs of gold,
That vanish as he draws nigh,
Like mists together rolled -

So I wander and wander along,
And forever before me gleams
The shining city of song,
In the beautiful land of dreams.

But when I would enter the gate
Of that golden atmosphere,
It is gone, and I wonder and wait
For the vision to reappear."
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Fata Morgana

The title is the Italian name of a superior mirage that can be seen on very hot summer days in the Strait of Messina - a city with a very long and rich nautical history, and my birthplace.

Its origins are from the Arthurian legend of the sorceress Morgan Le Fay (aka Morgana) - originally a fairy, or fata - who used her magical powers to lure sailors to their death.

These optical phenomenons are usually comprised of several images, some inverted and right side up, stacked on top of each other, suddenly changing with parts of them alternating between being compressed, then stretched.

Primarily influenced by Antonio Vivaldi concertos, I arranged two seperate, but complementary pieces, using the same basic sound set as the first two tracks - one for the Sicilian side of the Strait, the other for the Calabrian.

By blending them through wide panning schemes, it allowed me to add some dissonance and chromaticism to the inner voices (more like J. S. Bach, than Vivaldi) to sonically mimic a mirage's distorted images overlapping the real ones in unusual ways.


Between Scylla And Charybdis

"Hug Scylla's crag - sail on past her - top speed! Better by far to lose six men and keep your ship, than lose your entire crew." ~ Homer, The Odyssey

This solo piano composition was influenced by Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti, with the title once again using the Strait of Messina as its focal point, this time with the mythical Scilla e Cariddi.

According to Greek mythology, Scylla was described as a six-headed sea monster (originally born as a beautiful sea nymph, but changed by the sorceress Circe), living in a rock shoal on the Calabrian side of the Strait.

Depending on the legend, the once beautiful Charybdis was either turned into a sea monster by Zeus, who condemned her to swallow huge amounts of water, and belch it back out three times a day, thus creating whirlpools capable of dragging large ships underwater; or simply, a gigantic whirlpool.

In reality, naturally forming whirlpools, in the northern portion of the Strait, occur due to the strong tidal currents between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas, but they are not dangerous for the overwhelming majority of watercraft.

For well over two thousand years, to be "between Scylla and Charybdis" (or "the Devil and the deep blue sea") has meant to be presented with two opposite dangers, with the task being able to find a path that can avoid both, or at the very least, to minimize damage.

Although the structure of the arrangement - a sonata with a short development section, blended with a themes and variations rondo (circular, for the whirlpool of Charybdis) is purely Classical - the content was inspired by folk music from both regions: the first theme from Calabria, the second from Sicily.

I decided for a slow waltz feel (the 3/4 time signature symbolizing the three capes of Sicily) played al piacere, or, as it pleases the perfomer. This allowed me to add some pauses, dynamic contrasts, and other techniques to represent the hesitancy of navigating through a difficult passage, and the constant sense of danger before reaching one's destination.