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The Making of the Album “Beautyquest” by Stephen Weber, Part III:

The Final Nine Songs

December 7, 2018

The final nine songs, or second half of the album, are divided into categories:
Scenescapes (3), the song Seeking the Sublime for rock ensemble and vocals, the
set of Seasonscapes (4), and a final improvised acoustic reprise of the opening
track on the album, Beautify Your Corner of the World.

Scenescapes

Skyscape
Skyscape is a piece I desperately wanted to turn out well, but limitations of my
software instruments and my use of them, ended up rendering something I’m not
entirely happy with. It opens with expansive string sounds painting an overhead
palate of sky. A full choir enters with slow and reflective material, enhanced with
reverb. After a brief return to the floating expanse provided by the strings, a rich
and warm string ensemble enters, playing fragmentary ideas. The middle section of
the piece features a soaring but tightly woven violin and viola duet. The choir re-
enters, followed by full string support, then addition of full orchestra. The whole
piece unfolds very slowly, much like watching cloud formations mutate and
evolve.

Rainscape
Math principles are the unifying feature of Rainscape, the most abstract and
electronic piece on the album. The Fibonacci series is very common in nature, so I
took the first 8 numbers in the series and used them as the binding element for the
piece, though this isn’t discernable to the listener. Essentially, I added 8 layers of
timbres, all built on the use of the Fibonacci series (it’s too complicated to explain
just how here), over a fairly static string synth underpinning. The piece is also a
palindrome, as once it hits a middle point, the remainder is essentially just
backwards. The piece is designed to explore a transient incoming and outgoing
weather system with rain as it begins, builds, then passes.

Nightscape
Nightscape attempts to paint a picture of the night sky. It begins with ethereal
choral sounds that soon give way to a repetitive piano part, built minimalistically
on a fairly simple chord progression. More and more layers of texture and timbre
are added until a solo cello enters to add color to the night sky. A high choral
passage then returns the listener to the expanse of the heavens. As the chord
progression returns, the piano inserts melodic ideas at the octave, followed by a
distant trumpet permeating the dense orchestral textures. The piano postlude
returns the listener to the initial painting of the night sky.

Seeking the Sublime


Emmanuel Kant’s understanding of the sublime included an element of fear or
awe, in addition to a sense of boundlessness and limitlessness. Seeking the Sublime
tries to create that space for the listener. The piece opens with an ominous organ
and choral section, which gives way to vocals and text over acoustic rock
ensemble. Some reverb on the vocals add to the spaciousness of the music. The
text relates the nature of the sublime experience. The extended middle section is a
dialogue between trumpet and acoustic lead guitar over simple accompaniment.
The vocals return, continuing to expound on the sublime experience. A buildup of
textures and the return of choir provide the closing climax for the song.

Seasonscapes

Summerscape
Summerscape is simply a piano improvisation I did one day. I posted it on Drooble
under a different title, but the nature and character of the improv fit the season of
summer well, a time when many people have more time to relax and enjoy nature
and be outdoors, so I decided to include it on the album. The only touch-up I did to
the original improv was to fix the attack of the note B-flat, which is out of control
on my Kurzweil keyboard.

Fallscape
Fallscape is also a piano improvisation. It’s much more intense, diverse,
melancholic, and almost sentimental in spots. Much of the harmony and textures
have their roots in 19th century Romanticism. The piece seeks to describe fall
through harmonic color, modulations, and cluster chords. The overall aesthetic is
one of loss and departure, though there are hints of optimism. Again, the only
touch-up to the improv was the uneven action of my Kurzweil keyboard.

Winterscape
Winterscape was surprisingly popular on Drooble, drawing over 700 listens and
many favorable comments. The opening synth sounds provide undulating
accompaniments for fragmentary piano ideas, panned right and left in dialogue
form. After some dissonance resolved at a cadence, the syth sound returns in richer
and more rhythmically pronounced form, and the piano decoration is more
extensive, though still somewhat reserved. The piece is an attempt to catch the
purity and beauty of falling snow upon an already snow-covered landscape.

Springscape
The final composition in the cycle, Springscape, is the most energetic, as you
might imagine. Through spacious rock ensemble textures there is a sense of vitality
and energy, as spring brings new life and color in abundance. The form of
Springscape is a bit odd. It opens with a violin solo over piano, followed by an
expansive guitar solo over rock ensemble. Cory Moon and James Harper, fellow
Drooble members, contributed the guitar and trap set parts, respectively. After the
exuberant guitar solo there is an extensive and reflective piano solo,
encouragement for the listener to explore the detail of spring’s beauty. The rock
ensemble and lead guitar solo return, followed by a brief piano postlude. The
character of this one makes it one of my favorites on the album.

Beautify Your Corner of the World (Improvised Acoustic Reprise)


I remember albums back in the 60s and 70s ending with a reprise of a song, which
I always thought was really cool. Also, I’m into symmetry and cyclical ideas, so
ending the album with a truncated reprise of the opening song just made sense, as I
also wanted to revisit the importance of beauty in our world one more time. The
reprise is just me sitting at the piano improvising a very simple chordal
accompaniment and singing the final verse and chorus of the full version of the
song.

Final Thoughts
The album “Beautyquest” was just that, a quest for beauty, a musical and textual
journey that I’d wanted to take for some time as a composer/creator to satiate my
fascination with beauty, aesthetics, and the sublime.

I’m profusely grateful to my wife, Lesa, who supported me throughout the project.
I also truly appreciate the other musicians that contributed to the album: Dystopia
of Truth, Richard Groce, Cory Moon, and James Harper. They were all amazing to
work with. In some respects, since the album is so nature-based, it’s also my feeble
and human attempt to portray through music the beauty the world and people
around us.

The album available for streaming on Spotify, Deezer, iHeart Radio, and numerous
other streaming services. It’s available for purchase at iTunes, Apple Music,
Amazon, Google Play, and CDBaby.