Track By Track: The Human Abstract - Features - Alternative Press




Track By Track: The Human Abstract

May 03 2011, 9:00 AM EDT By Tim Karan

Guitarist A.J. MINETTE tells the stories behind each song on THE HUMAN ABSTRACT’s latest album, Digital Veil.

I wanted to write a piece with both classical and metal influences.  The melancholic theme is first performed on two classical guitars, leading into a four-part contrapuntal treatment of the same material.  Conceiving this section more like a string quartet necessitated the use of four guitars. 

“Complex Terms”
The word “progress” is such a dismissive word in the worlds of art and music. It suggests that the art and music which came before is somehow less sophisticated. We also assume we’re making progress in terms of politics, education and philanthropy. There’s an overwhelming amount of cynicism and apathy in this world, and rather than working hard and being curious, we accept what is given to us. We are being led through the valley into the mouths of wolves.

“Digital Veil”
This song is one of two "experimental" tracks on the record.  Composed exclusively using the octatonic scale, I wanted to get away from my tendencies in terms of harmony and melody to focus on rhythm, meter, tone and color. The lyrics are addressing our increasing dependency on technology, and how it has begun to interfere with our face-to-face social interaction.  Behind the digital veil, we can be anybody we want to be. 

While this song is not explicitly about the Faust legend, it deals with similar lyrical themes. It explores the idea of giving up one's identity and sense of self for something that is not worth it. Instrumentally, the music explores the Hirajoshi scale, functional harmony and key relationships based on chromatic mediants. Also, the bass line (lowest guitar and bass) of the chorus is a nod to Brahms' Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor.

This song is written in Sonata form. I wanted to write a piece of music that was lengthy, but did not collapse under the weight of having too many parts. I wanted to limit the amount of "thematic" material and create variations on each theme. For instance, the acoustic section of this track is repeated but instead uses electric guitar, has a registral change and incorporates different harmonies.

“Holographic Sight”
The second of the two experimental tracks, "Holographic Sight" explores the whole tone scale, changing meter and whole tone vertical sonorities.  There is a section in this song that utilizes a meter scheme of 7/8, 3/4, 7/8 and 6/8. Being unable to rely on certain tendencies helped me create this unpredictable section. By creating limitations for myself from the onset, I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone.

“Horizon To Zenith”
On the surface, the lyrics are about seafarers from centuries ago who risked their lives to explore the Earth. Though the risk was high and the death toll was many, people were possessed by a duty and compulsion to explore. This song is a metaphor for what a band often goes through while on tour. Obviously the risk of death is much lower, and the significance of our voyage is less valuable to the whole world, but we still carry the weight of demands of a nation—or record label—and spend most of our day in the womb of a vessel. Any of our friends who have been on tour can relate to this song.

This song examines where I’m at in my life and the balance between ego and self-doubt as a musician and a person. Although I have become wiser through experience, I’ve also become more cynical. It seems to be a pattern that most of us follow, struggling with our sense of identity, faith and place in this world. The lyrics, "I am a sick man... I am a wicked man" refer to the opening line of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel, Notes From Underground. The questions of life are attempted to be resolved in an internal dialectic, and the music is meant to reflect the lyrics. The instrumentals present music that is highly patterned in the opening sections as the listener is beckoned to "follow the pattern,” while the end of the song is extremely un-patterned as the lyrics ask, "What's the point of these patterns?" alt