Dreamscape

                 
Chronologically speaking, creating the original music on the Dreamscape EP began in the final years of the last millennium.

The songs 'Stride', 'Stigma', 'Washing You Clean' (or 'Stigma 3') and 'Revolve' were all composed in the mid-90s, following the dissolution of the band I played with while in high school. 'Kitty' (or 'Stigma 1') was written in late 2000.

All of the songs were demoed using various four-track recorders (Fostex and Tascam brands, specifically), and in some cases, re-recorded at different studios in London, ON (where I reside).

In a final push between 2009 and early the next year, my collaborators and I were able to complete a final product, which was made available for free download on Valentine's Day, 2010.

A physical CD was manufactured in 2011 and was given away as promotion, or to friends and family.

The picture used for the CD cover and for the EP's promotion online was done by Canadian artist Sarah Kane.

Sarah is a brilliant illustrator and painter, and the name she chose for her finely detailed pencil drawing - 'Dreamscape' - was adopted as the title for the recording. 

Otherwise, it would have been the Chris Morgan EP, which is pretty bloody dull.  

The Songs

I



Revolve 
Occupy a point in space,
Inspired to reconnect,
To bounce the light from here until morning,
To give back what I get.

Show me to your centre,
Can't think on a line,
Circle spin and spiralling,
What is the shape of time?

Watch me revolve.

Closing in, we focus now,
Are these efforts still in vain?
Circle spin and spiralling,
Until only this remains:

Watch me revolve.

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The original demo for 'Revolve' was recorded on four-track in late 1995.

Initially, the song included little more than four chords, an early voicing of the main guitar riff, and the chorus refrain, 'Watch me revolve'. 

Other demos were produced at various facilities over the next year or so, and in the end, four different versions of the song emerged. 

Several tracks for the music that would be used in the tune's final incarnation were recorded at a professional recording studio in spring 1997 as part of a student project. 

I held on to the tapes from those sessions, and a decade later, the tracks - which included percussion and vocal performances - were converted into a format usable in a digital environment. 

Work on the song continued sporadically for the next few years, with additional elements being blended into the mix. Finally, a deadline was imposed and the piece was completed late January 2010. 

Lyrically, the song took its inspiration from The Cosmological Eye (1939) by American writer Henry Miller. In the book's introductory passages, Miller writes about departing from his homeland:
"Just as a piece of matter detaches itself from the sun to live as a wholly new creation so I have come to think about my detachment from America. Once the separation is made a new orbit is established, and there is no turning back. For me the sun had ceased to exist; I had myself become a blazing sun. And like all other suns of the universe I had to nourish myself from within. I speak in cosmological terms because it seems to me that is the only possible way to think that one is truly alive."  
"That is why, perhaps, when I sit at my typewriter I always face East. No backward glances over the shoulder. The orbit over which I am travelling leads me farther and farther away from the dead sun which gave me birth. Once I was confronted with a choice - either to remain a satellite of that dead thing or create a new world of my own, with my own satellites. I have made my choice."
For me, these statements have never been about physical locality or even an emotional disposition. They describe a mode of being; a way of seeing the world.

The emancipation of a person's intellect and imagination from arcane, repressive or inherited belief systems is comparable to leaving behind the 'dead sun' Miller describes.

In 'Revolve', I envisioned myself as the writer recommends, "in cosmological terms", and freed from the decaying orbit of creative morbidity and spiritual inertia.

II



Kitty (Stigma 1)
I’m a lover, not a fighter,
But I’ll fight for what I believe in...
And I believe in you.

This song is for you, for seeing me thru,
Whatever we do, I’ll always love you...
And I can see in you.

You get settled, I’ll boil the kettle,
And you can bet I’ll find my way into your heart.

Do you remember our first November?
The glowing embers that led the way out of the dark.

Those were wild days, and memory still stays,
Like instant replays inside our own place.
I still believe in you...

We keep on going, know what we’re knowing
In love we’re showing our baby's growing
That I conceived with you.

It’s simple really, and kind of silly,
The road is hilly but the land beyond is not.

So with no fear, because we are both here,
And we are so near to everything that we have sought.

*******************************************************************************

The two chords that comprise the verses of 'Kitty' (D7sus4+Am7) were used as a preamble for the first four-track demo of 'Stigma' I put down in fall 1996. They set a good tone for a lighter mood I wanted to establish before the brooding, bluesy sprawl of the longer piece.

'Kitty', 'Stigma' and 'Washing You Clean' (tracks 2,3 and 4 respectively) were intended to be heard together, as one big song with three movements. This key production element was introduced in the earliest versions of the piece, and it's the reason the tunes are connected on the EP.

The first full version of 'Kitty' was completed on four-track in late fall 2000. It's a love song, meant to express the affirmative, optimistic aspects of a romantic relationship.

A second demo of the tune recorded in 2003 included 'echo chords' on electric guitar and the 'heartbeat' bass.

Even though the kick drum doesn't appear in any of the song's earlier versions, I always envisioned it as part of the final arrangement. This is realized on the EP.

Instrumental and vocal tracks on the Dreamscape version of 'Kitty' were recorded late in the production process. I engineered and recorded the guitar and vocal performances myself in late 2009, and sent them on for final mixing in Toronto.

III
            
Stigma
You sold me out,
Left me wondering if I was betrayer or betrayed,
I’m tired of being your bitch anyway.
Anyway,
Stigma my love...

Stigma my love, I’m backing out of the deal,
This time for certain, this time for real.
Stigma my love, I’m backing out of the deal,
This time for certain,
This time...

You sold me out,
For all time,
You know what I’m tired of being,
Stigma my love?

Stigma my love, I’m backing out of the deal,
This time for certain, this time for real.

Let them build their churches to memory!

-The first generation to live like we are on camera…

Stigma my love, I’m backing out of the deal,
This time for certain, this time for real.

Let them build their churches to memory!

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The chords and lyrics for the song that became 'Stigma' were kicking around since 1995. I knew I wanted to write a blues tune, but I didn't want it to sound anything like a genre song.

Fast-forward to the end of 1996, when the first four-track demo version of 'Stigma' was recorded. 

It hinted at the epic nature of the piece, and introduced a number of elements that figured prominently in the final mix, including the vocal harmonies, the 'heaving' harmonica, the repeated call of "Stigma!" that sets up the final reprise, and the structure of the song as a whole.

Percussion and vocal tracks were laid down at a professional recording facility in the spring of 1997. 

These were the same sessions that yielded completed versions of 'Revolve' and 'Stride', but 'Stigma' remained unfinished until the tracks were recovered in 2007. At that time, the drums were subjected to extensive editing in a digital work environment, as were the vocal tracks.

The original guitar loops for the song were created in 1997. 

Additional guitar tracks, including solo passages played by an associate on a Gibson Les Paul through a Mesa Boogie Vacuum Tube Amplifier, were added in late 2009.

Acoustic guitar was recorded in one take during this period as well. Keyboard and bass tracks were finalized in early 2010.  

The music used to connect the pieces on the Dreamscape EP was composed collaboratively in January 2010, and signalled the final stage of the song's development.

The D-A-D phrase that marks the start of 'Stigma' was lifted - quite consciously - from the soundtrack to The Stand (1994), the TV miniseries based on the novel by Stephen King. 

The Stand - a post-apocalyptic drama - conveyed the sort of 'end-of-the-world' mood I hoped to summon in 'Stigma's preamble and in the first verse of the song.

Lyrically, Stigma was inspired by the confessional style of Tori Amos. I wanted the words to sear, but be ultimately healing in their honesty, like the sting when alcohol is used to clean a wound.

The line, "The first generation to live like we are on camera" was truncated from, "We are the first generation to live our lives like we are on camera." 

When I wrote it in 1995, I was interested in the aphorisms of Marshall McLuhan. But in 2014, with the ubiquity of image-capture technology, the words seem eerily prescient.

                 
             

IV 


Washing You Clean (Stigma 3)
I'm washing you clean,
I'm sending the flood,
I've stirred up the waters,
With my own blood.

I'm washing you clean...
I'm washing you clean...

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'Stigma' concludes with a wash of harmonies and the crash of a cymbal. 'Washing You Clean (Stigma 3)', the song's final movement, was intended as the sort of music you might hear at the end of a film, when the credits roll.

Lyrically, the words acknowledge the 'stigma' metaphor, suggesting it will be "washed clean".

The absolution has not come without sacrifice, however - the blood in the water - but the promise of a new start can arise from what's been lost.

The music for this piece - aside from the vocal melody and basic chord pattern - had little to do with my vision for song, and was created and arranged by my collaborator. 

The original recorded version of 'Washing You Clean', which dates back to a four-track recording from 1995, was stately, solemn and sparse, consisting of a piano, hi-hat, bass and vox.

V  

     
Stride
If I could divine, the thoughts in your mind,
Maybe we could take it on together.

A pause for the loss, if swords have to cross,
Just take it in stride, I'm on your side.

Just take it in stride, it's one hell of a ride,
And start a new page, open to change.

Because when it's all done, we'll shine like the sun,
We won't have to run, we'll melt into one.

All things flow!

If I could divine, the thoughts in your mind,
Maybe we could take it on together.

A pause for the loss, if swords have to cross,
Just take it in stride, I'm on your side.

Just take it in stride.

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Of the songs I've written, 'Stride' has been demoed most often. Musically, its foundation is a simple, four-chord figure, played in 3/4 - 4/4 time (whichever you prefer). 

A number of these recordings date back to the 1990s, when several different versions were created. 

These ranged from a simple guitar and voice demo recorded in 1995 to a full-on rock version with scored orchestral accompaniment produced in 1997.

The tracks recorded in 1997 were recorded in a different key, but the drums and the gong audible in the song's midsection were preserved from those sessions. 

Other elements of the orchestral arrangement were also utilized in the Dreamscape version of the song.

Starting simply, with just keys, acoustic guitar and voice, I wanted to create Phil Spector's legendary 'Wall of Sound' brick-by-brick. 

As a new verse began, another musical element was added, until the mid-section, when the lyric and double-time chords were joined by the aforementioned gong, fuzzy guitar, heavy drums and bass.

All of the tracks for 'Stride' - aside from the percussive elements - were recorded in late 2009 and January 2010.

From a lyrical perspective, 'Stride' is the story of a friendship. 

The tune's conciliatory tone and uplifting melody seemed to me an ideal way to conclude the Dreamscape EP.