Well, I finally released “Dumeh“. To those whom I’ve spoken to about this piece over the last decade, it may be a bit surprising that I’ve finally finished, but I think it’s time. I’ve written a bit on this piece on the blog, but the story of how the idea behind Dumeh began goes way back.
MEMORIES OF DUMEH
My initial memory of it was in 2003. I was sitting around in an apartment in my senior year of college, or soon after, messing around on the guitar. This was not an unusual thing for me at the time, as I spent a lot of time sitting around, watching TV, plinking around on the guitar. The main point is to amuse, like giving idle hands something to do, but I was also unconsciously trying to find new musical seeds to later blossom into actual projects. Dumeh was really just a neat, classical-ish riff I stumbled upon one day that I, thankfully, recorded in some fashion for safekeeping.
My DAW changed over the years, too, getting better and more professional, so the basic audio recordings eventually became a full-fledged Logic project (that spanned several versions of the software). Over the next few years I fleshed out the idea into a more orchestral instrumentation, changing the guitar into a piano, and creating a string section to support it. I’d never written a real sonata or symphony or anything. I took music classes in school, but never any actual music theory. I’ve never been deterred by that, though, and I just kind of go with what sounds right to me. There was something here that I’d never really tried to make before (I was most comfortable with writing 3-piece rock instrumentals), and I wanted to see it through.
Progress on the piece obviously faltered at some point, however. A lot of time would go by as it languished in some half-done state. I’d work on other things, and then occasionally come back to pick at it some more. At some point, I spent a good deal of time trying to write it out as a proper score (in a book! with a pencil!), because that’s what real composers of orchestral music do, right? Of course, that project fell through due to OMG WTF AM I THINKING. The piece was the longest, possibly most complex, I’d ever written, and transcribing it was kind of insane.
I bounced it down to a final MP3 many times, but I was never quite happy with it. A lot of the playing is programmed, as I can’t play piano well enough, nor do I have the ability to play or record a string section or a drumkit. In the end, the final version still doesn’t feel “lively” enough to me, but after 11 years I was kind of done. A half-hearted attempt to use Logic’s auto-scoring to then give to a local orchestra to perform never materialized, and the whole project just became too unwieldy for both my attention span and ability, so I called it.
Regardless of the lack of complete realization of this project as I’ve envisioned it for years, I’m still really happy with the piece. I’ve written other orchestral things, but Dumeh is my favorite.
THE ACTUAL PIECE
The main progression (“chorus”-y part) is a pretty simple Cm Bb Gm F walkdown, but it feels epic. When it changes to the “verse”, there’s a shift to Fm Cm Fm Cm Bb, which gives it a languished (much like the progress on it most of the time) feel that I particularly like. I really enjoy the middle part with the repeating piano riff and the eventual crescendo into the piano solo. At the end, when the main progression is repeated, I wanted to just make it louder and louder and more climactic, but it’s already so busy that I didn’t want it to explode, so I held back a little.
Dumeh is a story piece. Not that it tells a specific one, but it has an ebb and flow of energy that can change your mood over the course of its duration, just like any good tale. I may never get it performed publicly with real instruments, but at least I finished it after all this time. Time to move on to the next huge, over-ambitious project, eh?