When I'm using music as an accompaniment to something I'm doing - in this case writing an essay - I don't want it to get "too" interesting all of a sudden. The idea of taking a theme and slowly working it, gently twisting and developing it into new shapes and sounds makes a lot of sense to me. It's different enough to allow the brain to notice the change, but not too different that it has to devote extra resource to processing it.
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This theme popped out a couple of weeks ago and for some reason really stuck with me. I'm running various variations around the 120 BPM tempo - this one's at 122.
There's something super simple, melodic and just generally - sweet about this piece - I find it very relaxing and calming.
Not quite sure what we'll do with it - but - we'll definitely continue to develop it.
"Breathe in for 4 beats, Breathe out for 6"
So I got an email from Adam earlier this year, he and his wife Hannah were a few weeks away from the birth of their first child and they were looking for calming piano music that would help them with their breathing exercises. Adam had originally asked if I had some published tracks that might work and while there were some that had the right feel, it got me thinking.
Why not compose something specifically for them?
Music to give birth to
The online literature around breathing exercises for pregnancy tend to encourage a longer exhale than inhale and after swapping information with Adam, they were looking to get to a point where each inhale would be a count of 4 and each exhale a count of 6. If they were targeting 6 full breaths a minute - this would give a steady tempo of around 60 beats per minute.
Now I'm a little odd when it comes to tempos and I have a thing about prime numbers which I'll go into another time but I set the tempo for this piece at 61 beats per minute.
I knew that I wanted to use a musical cue to indicate when to inhale and when to exhale - by splitting up the full breath into a 4 and a 6 beat I originally started with basic arpeggios - with moving up the board for the first 4 beats and moving down the board for the second 6.
It made sense aurally but the problem was it was a bit boring - you can see and listen to that first development here: Breathe early arpeggio development on Katch
Changing from 4 to 6
As often happens with my particular process it's just by playing that the insight comes and a breakthrough is made. It hit me that if I pushed that second 6 beats into a more 6/8 feel, it would feel like two sets of three then everything might seem to fit together a lot better.
And it started to come together - here's the session where that happened: Breathe 5th Theme Development on Katch
Dialing in the melody
Now that I knew how the track could feel I began to focus in on the melody and dial in the melodic cue that the first 4 beats of each breath would start with. I know that the trick to this kind of track is repetition but you've got to do it in a way that doesn't feel repetitive - fun huh!?
I eventually recorded a version which Adam and Hannah ultimately used to welcome Alexandra, a beautiful baby girl into the world.
New Piano Tone
Since I made that initial recording I’ve been working with Mike to develop the music2work2 piano tone and so I re-recorded the track at the end of October and this is the version you are now listening to.
Not Just For Pregnancy
Although the initial impetus came from controlling one’s breathing during labor, there are huge benefits in all walks of life to taking time out and consciously thinking about how you breathe. The whole aspect of mindfulness is very popular right now - and rightly so.
If you’re feeling a bit stressed and want to take 7 minutes out and calm down - this is a great track to help you manage your breathing. During the actual development I got a note back from Adam (who's a super graphic designer - check him out here) who was listening to the final track at work and finding that it helped him to relax even there!
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