Monday, June 4, 2012

Siddiqah EP; Andrew Lipke

If you're looking to spice up your iTunes, give Andrew Lipke a good listen (The following video speaks for itself). Born in South Africa, Lipke has found much success as an artist, producer, songwriter and entertainer in the Philadelphia music scene. The interview to follow sheds light on his new EP, Siddiqah, and Lipke's musical inspirations. 

How did you come to title the EP “Siddiqah”?
The piece "Siddiqah" - which is the majority of the EP - is based on a tragic story I read about in the NY times. A young man in Afghanistan was in love with a young woman. He was already in an unhappy arranged marriage and she was about to be forced into one. So they decided to elope. After they had left their village and taken up with some relatives in a not too distant town they were subsequently contacted by their hometown families, urging them to return home...promising that the young man - Khayyam - could take on his love as his second wife. Although not interested in sharing a marriage, the two were ultimately convinced to return to their village. But it was a trap, and the Taliban grabbed the couple out of their homes the evening they returned and placed them in front of the men of the community the following day so they could renounce their love and admit their sin. The couple refused to denounce their love for each other and were then stoned to death. First the young, 19 year old, woman, and then the man. The woman's name was Siddiqah. Hence the title of the piece, and the title of the EP. 

The two-track EP has two very different sounds- what was the inspiration behind it? Have you recorded anything similar to this before?

The inspiration for the first and more substantial piece on the EP I related in the last answer. The story seemed so operatic, so like something from a Shakespeare tragedy or tragic opera, yet was heartbreakingly true. And I'm continually frustrated by the needless hatred and violence fueled by religious dogma so it spoke very directly to the core of what drives much of my artistic inspiration. 

The second song on the record - Passing By - was a song I wrote many years ago and never got around to recording...and I had played at a few shows recently and many people seemed to connect with the words and images in the song. So I decided I wanted to record a definitive version of it and figured it might serve to balance Siddiqah as a listening experience. 

Siddiqah is by far the most ambitious recording I have made in regards to sheer number of instruments and tracks, so in that way I suppose it is the first of it's kind for me. 

What was the writing and recording process like for all the string and brass instruments on this EP?

I arranged all the instrumental parts for Siddiqah as if I had unlimited resources at my disposal - as I do most things I orchestrate or compose with pencil and paper - and then set out to try and figure out a way to realize what I had written.  It is more often than not that the latter takes quite a bit more time than the former. I tracked the strings as a quartet and then had them play the parts multiple times to build what is essentially a string section of about 20-25 players at its fullest, and a simple quartet when needed. The horns were tracked together; again multiple times from multiple positions in the room, and the trumpet, trombone parts were performed by one person, overdubbing each part. The tuba part was performed by the same person who played the trombone parts, Steven Duffy. And then there were many hours of editing and mixing. 

What was the experience like?
Exhilarating, frustrating, painstaking, slow, rewarding. It was like most worthwhile things I guess. 

What is your favorite instrument to write for? To record?

I really think more of ensembles than instruments when it comes to the more traditional sense of writing or composing. I love collaborating when in a rock band setting, and throwing things at different members of the group to get their thoughts and ideas, and hitting upon that sound that everyone is excited by. But when I'm working by myself with pencil and paper I'm much more focused on the relationship of each instrument to the others, to the ensemble as a whole, and to the meaning of the music should it be connected to a narrative - as was the case with Siddiqah and is so with much of what I write. In that regard my favorite ensemble to write for at present is the string quartet. Granted this might be because I have access to amazing string players who enjoy playing my music and four players is a lot easier - although not easy - to assemble than a 30 piece orchestra. But it is also an amazing representation of what is possible in music and there is such a wealth of possible interaction and gorgeous sonorities that I can't imagine I will ever tire of writing for string quartet...even if I have an orchestra at my disposal one day (fingers crossed!)

Can your fans expect more of this sound from you in the future?

Yes!  I am more and more drawn to longer, larger, through-form compositions that blur the line between song and something else. Much like my last release "The Plague", "Siddiqah" is another example of an attempt to combine the aspects of long form, large ensemble, classical music that I love - Mahler, Wagner - with the immediacy, vibrancy, and youthful energy of pop music. I see this as something I will work on for many years. There will undoubtedly be tangents and other non-related creative endeavors, but there will most certainly be more similarly ambitious attempts as Siddiqah in the future. Whether they will be successful or not is a whole other question!

How do you feel your music has changed since your first solo album, Ghosts, in 2005?

In some ways, not much at all and in other ways, drastically. It was while I recorded “Ghosts” on a little BOSS recording machine in my closet sized studio that I wrote my first two string quartets. So I was operating in both musical realms at that time but had not yet found the way to merge my two equally powerful muses into one. I feel with “Siddiqah” and “The Plague” I am just starting to figure out how to combine these two distinct voices into one that I can call my own.  Perhaps it's a bit late to be finding my voice in my early 30's, but that, I suppose, is the way things have turned out.

Connect, Follow, Listen:

Alexis Canary

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