52 Stories Up

This episode is another of our challenges here on At Water’s Edge. We only received two responses (and they’re GOOD!), so the rest of the show is devoted to tracks that tell stories.

The challenge was… well, challenging. A few months ago, I posted an image on Facebook, a spectacular view of downtown Los Angeles from the office where I was working. I mentioned that it was 52 stories up, and of course the puns started flying. Stories (as in tales), and cards, and great wordplay ensued. A challenge was born: create a track that incorporates elements of both your favorite story and your favorite card game.

The remainder of the program relies on the RadioSpiral library, where we went spelunking for tracks that told stories in one form or another.

The Challenge Tracks – 52 Stories Up

“Bridge Game Near Araby” – George L Smyth

This was a tough one. My favorite story is The Giving Tree, but I get so emotionally involved that, like Goretsky Symphony #3, I can only deal with it once every five years or so. Also, I do not really have a favorite card game – I do not like the element of chance in each game, as I am more of a person who enjoys playing chess.

If I did enjoy playing cards I would probably choose Bridge, despite being at the mercy of one’s partner for success or failure. I am more of a team sports fan than an individual sports fan, so perhaps the team element would suffice.

For my second most favorite story I would have to select Araby by James Joyce in his collection, Dubliners. It had a profound effect on me when I first read it, and an even more profound effect the second time.

Bridge Game Near Araby is about both elements, the notes, time signature and structure work with the former, the overall feeling reflects the latter.


“Joyous Solitude” – Skoddie

This track began as a game of draw 3 Klondike Solitaire played by hand with physical cards. I recorded each step of the game in a notebook, and was able to complete the game without cheating. 

Skoddie-Solitaire score

I then transcribed my notes into a spreadsheet, where I assigned a separate scale to each suit. I then entered the relevant note values into my DAW, and went through the process of sound design to build a lush landscape. The end result is surprisingly rhythmic, while primarily focusing on harmony, and timbre.

Side note: this wouldn’t have been possible without help from my partner who kindly completed transcribing the score into a Google spreadsheet when I was feeling super overwhelmed. I forgot about [the story] part of the challenge. I got stuck on the process aspect and just dove headfirst into that deep end. In a sense the creation of it is a story? The game took over 3 hours to play due to the notation, I had a nasty headache when I was done which caused me to avoid working on it for weeks afterwards, and then was only able to complete it with help from my partner.

The Library Tracks – Stories from around the world

Air – Robert Rich – Gaudi (1991)
Aerial on Warm Seas – Robert Rich – What We Left Behind (2016)

Robert recommended these two tracks when it was clear we wouldn’t have enough challenge responses to fill the program.

“Air” from Gaudi references a lucid dream that he had years ago about floating above the tops of buildings in a big city, seeing them like kelp floating up from the ocean floor.

“Aerial on Warm Seas” from What We Left Behind is about flying above the ocean after humans are extinct.

Hear My Untold Story – Phillip Wilkerson – Complex Silence 23 (2012)

Stories from the Forest, Part 11 – Thom Brennan – Stories from the Forest (2008)

Floating on the Face of Light and Dark – Lucette Bourdin – Stories from the City (2007)

The Girl Who Dreamed – Rebekkah Hilgraves and Juta Takahashi – Liebesträume (2015)

One of my favorite projects, Liebesträume was a collaboration with Juta Takahashi, who is a true artist. We chose one short story and one poem from my collection. I recorded the narrations and sent them (the wonders of modern internet technology!). Juta translated the poem to Japanese and taught it to me, so we would have an English and Japanese version of “Awake”. “The Girl Who Dreamed” was a short story I wrote, an allegorical version of some of my own life experiences. Juta also created a solo track for the album that was his dreamlike interpretation of some of our collaborative moments. It was a true honor to work with him on this project. He created the perfect settings for these works, making them come alive in a way that simple readings could not.

Rusted Barrel by the Sea – Janne Hanhisuanto – Water Stories (2010)

Stories of Ancient Winds – Robert Carty – Ethereal Deserts (2004)

In The Sky And In The Ground (We Live And Die) – Brother Saturn – Tales Of Space Exploration 25 – 34 (2014)

Message in a Dream – Conni St Pierre – Beyond the Sky (2003)

The Mystic Test Book, or the Magic of the Playing Cards – Joe Frawley – Cartomancer (2016)

The perfect addition and finale for a program about stories and cards, Joe Frawley’s “The Mystic Test Book” from the 2016 Cartomancer ends today’s episode.

From the release’s program notes:

In The Mystic Test Book (1893), 19th century American astrologer and mathematician Olney H. Richmond outlined a complex system for using a standard deck of playing cards for divinatory purposes. The deck is referred to as a book, which he claims to be the world’s oldest, dating back to a time before modern written language. He claimed the “science of the cards” originated in the ancient continent of Atlantis, where it is said four rivers flowed from one source, four kings ruled in one capitol, and which was thought to contain the site of the biblical Garden of Eden. Earlier, in 1889, Richmond had founded the Order of the Magi in Chicago to teach an astrologically based theological system. The Order was one of the many new astrological religions founded in 19th century America . Olney’s temple was originally located on the second floor of his home where he regularly taught to about 30 men and women. The temple is thought, by occult scholar Aidan Kelly, to have functioned as an “outer court” for a coven of witches. 

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