Dragon in the Deep

The improvisation presented on this page is a very good example of the power of a sound to inspire. I was spending time at EMEAPP, the Electronic Music Education And Preservation Project, in the summer of 2021, when this was recorded. At the time, I was mainly helping the organization develop, but found myself in the main performance hall one afternoon, exploring some of Keith Emerson’s gear when EMEAPP’s founder Vince Pupillo Sr. directed me towards a newly acquired instrument in EMEAPP’s Collection, a vintage, customized Minimoog that had previously been owned by the late great keyboardist Keith Emerson:

The Keith Emerson Minimoog at EMEAPP.

I started to play the instrument, and was immediately inspired by it. I found it was also very conducive to be played with two hands, in an alternating way. Vince captured the moment on his cell phone:

It may sound as if I’m playing a lot of random notes, but I’m not: Although I’m playing fast, I’m using a variety of different harmonic sequences, including lots of semichromatic sequences, circle of fourths, octaves and fifths, etc. The triggering circuitry in the instrument is customized, and might have enhanced the way the instrument responds.

The next day I began to conduct some formal scientific research on the instrument, which involved examining its circuitry, e.g. looking for modifications like the modified trigging circuitry, and measuring it’s output waveforms and such. But I remained deeply, and irresistibly, drawn to its sound. In an inspired mood that evening, and following a little tweaking of the patch that I initially found it in, I gave into my emotions, abandoned research for the day, and recorded the following piece that I later titled “Dragon in the Deep” in one long take, so named because it makes me think of a luminous dragon submerged deep in the abyss of an ocean, lighting up the depths with its thoughts.

The piece has many different distinct subsections, one after another, each with its own mini-theme. I was thinking very much at the time about Keith Emerson and his work, and so you may notice that I quote an ELP line here and there. The spectral visualization was created with a visualization app after the fact.

I also produced some digital art this visualization, which is posted here.

In any case, here is the full recording:

The Dragon Synth Patch

The key to the rich sound here is the use of three oscillators in three different octave bands, with sawtooth and sharktooth waveforms, and with the third oscillator also being used for audio frequency range modulation of the filter cutoff, the degree of which can be controlled by the modulation wheel. The loudness and filter contours also provide a powerful Hammond organ like percussive attack.

This recording is available for download (and also for free listening) on my music site, at http://www.benlucemusic.com. Here is an image of the album cover and some related art (created by me), and a photo of me playing the instrument in the performance hall:

Cover art for Dragon in the Deep.
The Dragon’s Eye in full.
Exploring the Keith Emerson Minimoog at EMEAPP.