Here’s a new piece, “Camel Ride to the Tomb.” I got inspired by some of the new devices that are available for Propellerhead Reason, not least of them Rob Papen’s PredatorRE synth, from which came the growling riff that begins in bar 11 or thereabouts. That riff seemed to have some potential, so I decided to set aside my microtonal experiments and do a Reason-only piece.
Sadly, Reason instruments can’t load microtonal scales. (Ernst tells me this is not a high priority for them — not surprising, given both the nature of their user base and the design of their user interface.) Nonetheless, I used a melodic mode with an exotic flavor that could be described as vaguely Middle Eastern.
There’s a story about the title. I read the story once, a long time ago, and it lodged in my brain — always a hazard, and a welcome one if you’re a writer. Back in the 1920s or thereabouts, a British author (it could have been Chesterton, but probably it wasn’t) was visiting Egypt. In those days, English-speaking tourists were probably held in less contempt than they’re likely to be today. Be that as it may, the author reported that in a village somewhere up the Nile, he encountered an enterprising local fellow who owned a few camels and was offering a service to tourists. In the market square, this man repeatedly chanted, in what we might imagine to have been a sepulchral monotone, the only English phrase he knew: “Camel ride to the tomb. Camel ride to the tomb.”
There’s a metaphor lurking in there, and it’s not very far beneath the surface.