Of wishes and motivations

I always wanted to write this post, but I never had the courage. I don’t even have it now, but still… I’m going to tell the story anyway, no matter what.

Sometimes there exist only short answers to extremely difficult problems – and a person’s inner motivation is definitely one of those hard questions that can be answered either in a single sentence or in several volumes. Still, I’m going to stay somewhere in between these two extremities. While the answer to the question “why I write and play music at all?” is indeed quite simple, my explanation may consist of a somewhat lenghty description of all the elements of the concise answer.

So why…? Well, my answer in itself is really not that complicated – at least for the first look -: I just wanted to create something really meaningful that truly reflects the essence of everything I am. While I don’t think that my other creative activities lack any meaning – I work as a neuroscientist during the day and have great hobbies to spend my free time -, I always felt that something was “missing from the equation”: the results of my activities always felt somewhat incomplete. Science is basically an intellectual challenge, and I find it cool that I can take part in research activities that may lead to disease treatments. Also, I’m currently writing a book based on decades of research (I’m not exaggerating – I’m really that maniac lol…) summarizing the history of my family with lots of personal reflections and outlooks. But this is also something that basically utilizes the intellectual part of my mind, without substantially involving the emotional aspects of my soul. As I basically am an emotion-driven person, I find it equally important to perfectly express one single feeling as to summarize 400 years of the history of a small Austro-Hungarian family. The manuscript of my book is – of course – valuable to me (otherwise I wouldn’t have put so much effort in those endless research hours in various archives…), but it has always been crucial for me to find something that incorporates both the emotional as well as the cognitive/intellectual aspects of my brain.

And this is where art crawls into the picture. It’s probably not an accident that I’ve always been attracted to art and artists – especially to music and musicians. I have always been quite happy with the scientific papers and poems I wrote (and hopefully I will be proud of my genealogy-based book too, once it will be published…), but if you read my writings, you can get to know only my “rational” side. I, however, wanted to find something more holistic that summarizes both my feelings and my thoughts: something that fully represents everything I am. And this is what I can do through music.

It’s these words and music that keeps me living, keeps me breathing” – says one of the best Life of Agony songs, and although I don’t use lyrics for my music, even I intend to transmit messages not only through sounds, but also through visual and verbal clues using appropriate cover images, song and album titles. But the overall framework is music – a framework that contains pieces from the essence of my life: feelings, thoughts, emotions, affections, memories, beliefs… and in general: everything. The creative process of this “musical storytelling” keeps me living a wholesome life and breathing healty air – and if things go in the right way, you will hopefully better understand me through my music than words. You will understand not only the easily digestible superficial information, but also those things that I’m unable, afraid or simply ashamed to tell you in words. You will understand the “real me”. The question – of course – arises: what is this desperate urge of self-expression? In a world where identity gets a rightfully increasing attention, I identify myself a music maniac, who condenses and presents his inner self using this particular type of art. But if I try to identify the source of this drive to express and share myself, I often end up with Jack Kerouac’s immortal words: “I’m writing this book because we’re all going to die“. Well, I’m writing my book of music, because we’re all going to die – I’m going to die, too. But before I die, I feel the urge to create something that I think is “really me”. It’s not because I consider myself more talented or better trained than anyone else. It’s also not because I think that my thoughts are worthier to share than anyone else’s thoughts: I don’t feel the need to compete with anyone (only with myself). I just learned the hard way that all my efforts to create something proved to be (at least partially) dead ends – except this one.

Please, listen to me, and understand me. There is something immortal behind the surface of things, and I will do my best to find it, condense it and present to you.

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

(Dylan Thomas)

On the first birthday of Hexapla

Sometimes we don’t even realize, how fast time flies: Hexapla, my debut album was already released one year ago. On such remarkable occasions people used to draw meaningful conclusions and make bold statements, but I just want to quickly summarize the milestones of this amazing journey from “Day 0” to today.

I don’t even know when “Day 0” was. Maybe it was back in the 80’s, when I got my first small acoustic guitar from my parents and started to make horrible noises with it (I even tried to invent some home-made distortion equipment for the poor thing, but of course I failed…). Or maybe “Day 0” was sometime around 1990, when I first joined a band. It was a different era at a different place with different people around me, and naturally the music I envisioned then was slightly – but not fundamentally – different from the music I make today. I can’t remember anymore much of the details, but back then my musical creations were rather slow and melancholic. Later these compositions gradually developed into a strange mixture of a Nightwish-type of opera metal combined with Nevermore-like brutality. They didn’t really have a specific, well-defined style, but one thing was certain: the rhythmical foundations of thrash/death metal were already there. I’m also aware of the formative effect of those musicians (mainly – but not exclusively – guitar players) whom I loved and admired already in the 80’s and early 90’s: they are still my greatest favorites even now. While experimenting with various styles and techniques, I quickly realized that playing in a band won’t work for me: first my studies at the university and later my profession made the daily routine quite unpredictable. Still, the desire of creating and playing music was always there.

Although my own “Day 0” seems now to disappear in the gloomy shadows of my past, “Day 0” for Hexapla was probably the day when I first experimented with a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW, a software for sound recording, engineering, mixing, and mastering). I quickly realized that my musical concepts can be implemented even without playing in a band, just by recording guitars track by track, then adding bass lines, programmed drums, and orchestration. Some would say it’s a suboptimal way of creating and playing rock/metal music, but I must clearly disagree on that point. The pros for this solitary process are the independence and the compromise-free nature of the whole creative flow, while the cons are the exclusive responsibility for every small details, and the enormous amount of energy that must be sacrificed on the altar of running a one piece band. While it certainly feels somewhat lonely to do everything alone from creating drum tracks to guitar solos, orchestration, mixing, mastering, and promotion, I wouldn’t easily give up this kind of independence and freedom. I don’t even feel sorry that I had to let the vocals go (originally, I wanted to write songs with lyrics and vocals, but soon I realized that my own “natural habitat” is instrumental metal music).

Although Hexapla was born in August 2021, I started to write the backbone of the songs already more than a year before. Several people asked me, what made me to give such a strange title to the album – and to be honest, I never gave a decent answer. But now I will. The truth is that earlier I wrote lots of poems that I initially intended to develop into song lyrics. When I started to think about the concept of my first album, I had six poems in mind enlightening one well-defined topic from six separate viewpoints. And the topic was a long (almost fifteen years ago) lost friendship: the slow but – as it later turned on… – inevitable process of mutual estrangement from someone whom I’d truly admired and taken care of. As I slowly realized that I’m quite uncomfortable with envisioning and writing vocals, I started to experiment with expressing feelings and thoughts exclusively through music, without the help of lyrics – and thus, the original idea of incorporating texts in my musical creations slowly slipped out of focus. I think this was another milestone in the formative process of Hexapla.

I, then, started to experiment with various DAWs and ended up with Steinberg’s excellent software, Cubase – and this was the point when I (sometime in December 2020, during the second COVID lockdown in Hungary) first recorded my fragmented ideas and incorporated them into an increasingly uniform concept. The songs started to show their own individual character – and I wanted them to reflect those feelings that I originally hoped to express in those early poems. Hexapla remained (as it was originally planned) an album of six songs, and the six-fold translation of the Bible by Origen of Alexandria in the third century seemed to a strange but still appropriate parallel to my six-fold musical description of those multitude of feelings.

Well, this is the story of my first album in a nutshell – I hope you guys don’t mind if this post managed to be a little longer than usual. Happy birthday to Hexapla, and many happy returns!

The first 50 followers on Spotify!

“Success is nothing, if you don’t have the right people to share it with; you’re just gonna end up lonely.” (Selena Gomez)

I’m not particularly proud of it, but I hadn’t known much about Selena Gomez before I read this quote from her – but I must admit that it really hit me hard. You guys – the inner circle of my Darkwave family – are those who have been following me from the very beginning of my journey on this vast ocean of music on various platforms according to your personal preferences, habits, tastes and needs. The wide variety of these platforms and networking possibilities made it necessary to create a common connecting point: a website, where we all can meet and share news with each other. And the big news for today is that Darkwave now has no less than 50 followers on Spotify!

This is an important milestone for me (no, there’s nothing symbolic in this number, but still, I find it a remarkable checkpoint!) and I know very well, what does it mean. It means that I found at least 50 dedicated listeners in that specific corner of the world of music, who share the same taste, artistic ideas and vision on music like me. Probably there are even more, but I consider 50 followers on Spotify – where you must practically fight even for the slightest attention – a great achievement, and I’m truly grateful for that. And what is more: if my favorite theory depicting music as one of the most sophisticated ways of building bridges between different persons is right, then my music started to accomplish its duty of building those bridges.

You guys hopefully know well, how grateful I am for the support that comes from each and every one of you! Going back to the quote from Selena Gomez: you are the right people to share my joy with. Thank you for traveling with me on this exciting and inspiring journey!

Left or right?

Now that Missa Innominata has been out for more than one and a half months and I don’t have anything to do, I play with photos… (OK that’s actually not true, bacause I already recorded 55 minutes of new song ideas LOL…). Still, let me know, which one do you prefer: the left one with a bigger logo, or the right one with a smaller text?

On how (not) to write music

Well, I was just reading an interesting article on Thomann’s Facebook page (Musikhaus Thomann is one of the world’s largest musical instrument warehouse located in Germany) about how to write good songs. This was an enlightening writing – I still don’t have a clear vision on how to create quality music, but now at least I know that everything I’ve done so far was nothing but an endless series of errors and mistakes (at least from the perspective of how to write songs with the intention of being popular – or more accurately, commercially successful). Although I personally know dozens of music snobs who consider self-trained musicians like me incapable of forming a decent opinion on such questions, I still think that there’s no need to have degrees and certificates in music education to shape a consistent view on what art (in general) and music (in particular) are for.

All joking aside, the paper I’ve read was an excellent summary on how human psychology works, and as a musician, how to take advantage of it. The author stated that catchy songs shouldn’t last longer than 3-3.5 minutes, should have a simple and easily followable structure with an interesting bridge after the second (!) chorus (I usually don’t even have chorus-like musical building blocks in my songs LOL…) and must put a special emphasis on the first, middle and final parts. I may be wrong (and here I must emphasize again that being a self-trained guitarist I don’t claim to have the knowledge on how to write music in the technical/theoretical – or rather, academical – sense of the word), but according to this checklist of song characteristics, art is (at least, according to the author) not an entitiy that flows freely without limitations, but rather constitutes a well-designed and regulated “something” that can (and should) catch the attention of the listeners by fulfilling their general expectations and needs. In this context, a successful artist is a well-trained person who research, analyze and understand these expectations and serve them out well. An artist, therefore, is nothing else but a mere answering machine. With all due respect, I have a characteristically different view on art – and consequently tend to agree with one of the comments below the original writing: this is not the way of creating quality stuff, but rather the way to become hopelessly mediocre and calculable. Let me explain, why I think so.

First of all, let’s subtract the need for commercial success from the equation. Having a full-time job as a neuroscientist it’s really an extraordinary luxury for me that I can create anything without being threatened by losing my income if my musical creations don’t fulfill the expectations of my listeners. Not that I’m not interested in the general reception of my music: independent artists usually develop an even bigger desire to be heard, accepted and valued by their listeners than their “professional” counterparts, because they (we) have only a very thin chance to break through the glass ceiling and emerge from the overall noise. Still, I value the advantages of being an independent musician: it’s a great privilege and a responsibility at the same time. On one hand I’m completely aware of the fact that it’s hard to find an audience who’s open to lenghty instrumental prog/thrash tracks, but I’m also fully aware that there are still people out there who look exactly for this type of music: your presence here is the best proof of this statement.

Music (and art in general) is not a tool to become popular or to earn a thick revenue. I – of course – don’t say that music should be a free-of-charge service, but the focus should always remain on creating something original and to find the right audience for that. Art is not a race to win: we don’t have to be better, faster, clearer sounding or more unique than anyone else in the course of music history. Art, consequently, should never degrade itself to a mere reflection of the current common taste, but should keep its own intrinsic values, regardless that they attract anyone or not. I consider art to be the purest and most effective way of human communication – and in this sense it doesn’t necessarily have to be virtuosic or “well-trained” (not even in the sense that the cited article intended to suggest!), but only honest and genuine. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” – wrote Oscar Wilde once, and I don’t see any other chance to achieve artistic quality, but by being absolutely genuine and honest. I’m really sorry, but I can’t (and consequently, won’t) limit myself to 3-minute musical quantums to attract random people on Spotify who were unlucky enough to click on one of my albums. Similarly, I can’t (and consequently, won’t) build up songs on the basis of the traditional “intro – verse – verse – chorus – verse – chorus – solo – chorus – outro” scheme: not because I envision myself as someone who will revolutionize music theory by inventing novel song structures, but simply because it’s not the way music jumps out of my thoughts. It would be a sick approach if I composed, played and recorded music with the primary motivation to “raise the numbers” of random listeners and followers: my primary motivation is to find those who can relate to what I try to express in my musical creations. And that’s why I always tell you, how grateful I am for you to be here with me: your presence strengthens the feeling that there is a way for any kind of music (even thrash metal, LOL…) to connect people.

Someone once said that if you can’t achieve great things, then achieve small things in a great way. I’d reformulate this sentence as follows: art is a great thing in itself, and you don’t even have to be “great” (I mean, famous or popular), because you already have your share in the greatness of music, when you write a song or play a couple of notes on your guitar. You just have to give the maximum of yourself, and there always will be people out there who will value your efforts. Catching the attention of crowds without this kind of genuineness and honesty will always result in sterile musical artefacts – they may pay well, but they will never fulfill the primary aim of art: to connect people and transmit messages in a very emotional, intense and intimate way. If my music cannot achieve this – regardless the general reception of the result – then I’d better shut down my amp and stand back my guitar into the rack.

But I do hope it’s not the case…

Of song lyrics and instrumental music

Why I ended up playing instrumental music? This is another good question that I used to get quite often from my friends – and at the same time this is a tricky one that’s pretty hard to answer. The music I make is just a snapshot of a quite long “evolutionary process” – so I think it’s better to go into details, if I want to formulate a reasonable response.

In the beginning – similarly to most of the musicians in the rock/metal scene – I wanted to write and play traditional songs with vocals. However, I’ve never been sure about the exact nature of the vocals that I wanted to incorporate. At the beginning I felt like slightly harsh but still melodic (let’s say, “Nevermore-style”) vocals would fit well to my music. Then I started to experiment with classical harmonies and fell in love with polyphonic choirs and female vocals. Still, somehow I always felt that writing melodies for vocals is not my business: it never went so smoothly than working with guitars. I think this kind of hesitation was the first momentum that suggested me to express my thoughts with sounds rather than with words.

I wrote numerous song lyrics, nonetheless. However, neither the rhytmicity nor the topics of my texts fitted well to the medium/fast tempo and the impetus of my thrash metal-based musical creations: they resembled more to poems than to song lyrics and fitted better to the textual world of gothic or doom metal songs. Therefore, as time passed by, I became increasingly uneasy with the idea of incoprorating my texts into songs. It also felt somewhat unnatural for me to synchronize the tight and fast thrash tempos with the unique accentuation of the Hungarian language. When it comes to songwriting, I basically think in guitar harmonics and melodies, rather than the characteristic sound of the human voice – therefore I felt like I can express myself better via the possibilities of instrumental music than through some enforced marriage of poem-like, gloomy Hungarian texts with my thrash metal-based rhytmical constructions.

This is basically the reason, why I ended up writing and playing instrumental music.

Long post about personal stuff

People keep asking me, how is it that a neuroscientist with a satisfying 9-5 job unexpectedly decides to become an independent/self promoted guitar player and composer at a certain point of his life. Well, there are no short answers to this question, but I cannot deny that it may look strange from the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t know me in person since my childhood.

The main point is that it wasn’t unexpected at all. As a music enthusiast, I’ve been playing the guitar since my childhood and I even participated in ad hoc formations earlier – but to be honest, these efforts never succeeded, due to the lack of motivation, dedication and time. I always had various other duties and playing the guitar in a regular metal band was never a real option for me. Not that I’m antisocial or something like that (I’m an introvert, but I do love the company of like-minded people…) – it’s just I never had the chance (or courage…?) to come forth with my own compositions, and ended up losing my interest in the process of realization of someone else’s musical ideas. Anyway, it was hard for me to believe in my own musical imagination so much as to push my ideas through those brick walls that probably I myself had built around me. Also – stepping out from the personal side towards the technical aspects – playing in a band on a regular basis would have put such a burden on me that I simply wasn’t prepared for. Working on my own professional career rendered my “hobbies” like music or rock climbing as second priority.

It was actually intentional that I put the word “hobbies” between apostrophes. All my life I’ve been primarily and above all a music maniac: I listen to music six-eight hours a day and play the guitar also on a regular basis, following a quite strict schedule. Whatever I became later was (and is) of course also an integral part of my personality: my job is great, satisfying and full of intellectual challenges – still, music has always been there in my life behind everything I did and became the backbone of my identity. It’s definitely not “just a hobby” for me. For those who know me it’s not a surprise that I’m a dedicated metalhead, but besides being a music fan I’m also someone who’s always been full of musical ideas. On one hand, I’ve always wanted to bring them forth, work them out and show them to others, but at the same time I’ve – of course – always been full of doubts, insecurities and fears, too. It’s amazing and terrifying at the same time that the world is full of excellent artists who compose excellent music and play the guitar in a virtuoso way – and in this context it needs some explanation, why I finally came to the decision to start composing and recording music.

The question is always somewhere around one’s identity. Oscar Wilde once wrote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” – and I think, this is the basis that I built this little musical experiment on. I slowly realized that I don’t need to compose songs that are more complex than everyone else’s – I am simply unable to do so, and I don’t even want it either. Also I don’t have to play faster than the iconic guitar heros in the vast rock/metal scene – it’s also impossible and I also don’t intend to. I just want to be myself, and I want my music to reflect the person who I am. During the lockdown I had plenty of time to think about these questions, and I came to the conclusion that there will always remain a place for genuine music and genuine musicians in the music market. I simply don’t want to put my decade-long need for self-expression aside: in a world full of insecurities the best thing that one can do is to avoid any further delays.

To cut a long story short, this is the reason, why I started to realize this project.