Lady Obscure: Well first of all, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Robert.
Robert McClung: Pleasure.
Lady Obscure: Could you tell us a little bit about the creative process of Telergy? The musical writing process?
Robert McClung: Each piece usually starts with a single theme and branches out from there. Once a tempo has been established I begin building different themes around it, putting them in an order that feels right, and then adding more themes on top of those. It’s like a giant puzzle sometimes. You have all these little snippets of information that have to fit together in a logical way. But unlike a normal puzzle, with music, there can be more than one solution.
Lady Obscure: The most impressing part of The Exodus is that all the tracks are telling a story without using the lyrics but instruments only. What are the challenges associated with telling the story with music as the sole medium?
[pullquote]All of these emotions require a different musical approach, and each can lead down some very interesting paths.[/pullquote]Robert McClung: Using music without lyrics to tell a story was something that was very common amongst classical musicians. But it’s an art that seems to have gotten lost in time. This is why I find this approach so interesting and challenging. But it’s a way of doing things that most modern music listeners are completely unfamiliar with. So bringing them around can be tough.
The use of bits of spoken narration and sound effects certainly helps set up the various scenes within the story. But at its heart the music itself must be able to carry the weight of the feelings and emotions that surround that event. So I try to focus on that. What does this incident make me feel? And how do I best show those feelings through music? Is it sadness? Pain? Joy? Etc… All of these emotions require a different musical approach, and each can lead down some very interesting paths.
Some people have criticized our use of spoken narration, saying that it detracts from the music. Sadly, I feel the people making this critic are missing the point. For me, it’s all about the story, and the narration is a key element to telling the story.
In an effort to appease those who make this critic, I am going to make sure that the spoken narrative portions on the next album will be on separate tracks. Those who don’t want to listen can simply skip over those tracks if they chose.
The next album may also feature some lyrics, but only in a very small capacity. The whole album will still be primarily instrumental.
Lady Obscure: You have worked with a very long list of guest musicians. How did you select them and get them together?
Robert McClung: After twenty plus years in the music business, I have had the great fortune to meet and work with an amazing array of musicians from all over the world. I know their strengths and their abilities, and what type of thing each one is capable of. When I’m writing, sometimes I can instantly hear what a certain persons playing would sound like with that track. So a large part of my writing process is about determining what musicians would be best for each part. Sometimes I write out specific parts for them to play, other times I just create a bed for them to improvise over.
Once a piece of music is written, I send a file out to the musician and ask if they would be interested in playing on it. Luckily for me, they usually say yes.
The age of modern technology is such that they don’t always have to physically come to my studio to do their parts. Several parts of this album were recorded in studios around the world, and the files simply emailed back to me. Some of Mattan Klein’s flute parts were done in my studio, but others were recorded in a studio in Philadelphia while he was on tour. Bat-ya Yehya’s parts were recorded in Israel.
Lady Obscure: Let’s talk for a minute about some of the ideas behind the Exodus concept. You are telling a well-known and a very important story. I’m sure there is an evolution to the concept – where did the idea come from?
Robert McClung: I knew I wanted to do something “Epic”, but wasn’t quite sure what. So I just started writing whatever came into my head. After recording a few segments of music I sent the files to a friend of mine who heard them and said to me “So, you’re doing the Exodus!” I replied “Uh, I am?!?” LOL. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed that he was right. So once I had the concept established I just went from there.
I’m well aware that the story has been done many times over, even by other musical groups. I just hope I was able to put a new and unique spin on it.
The most challenging part was doing it in such a way that would be respectful to all those who believe in every aspect of the story. So there were moments where I had to put my own personal beliefs aside and present things in the way people are more familiar with. I spent a good deal of time consulting with Priests and Rabbis just to make sure I didn’t step on anyone’s toes. Any artistic work based on religion can be a land mine waiting to explode if you are not careful. So I tried to take my time and do things right so I wouldn’t offend or alienate anyone.
Lady Obscure: So just like you mentioned, The Exodus has a religious significance, obviously, and I am curious as to whether your focus was there…
Robert McClung: No. The religious aspect of this story doesn’t fit into my own personal beliefs, and the various contributing members of Telergy come from many different faiths and backgrounds. This story was done with a reverence to the historical aspect of the story, not religious.
This incident in history was one of th[pullquote_right]Using music without lyrics to tell a story was something that was very common amongst classical musicians.[/pullquote_right]e most defining moments of all western civilization. All of the world’s major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) can all trace their origins back to this one event. Even without the religious aspect, this is one of the most important stories of all time. Had it not occurred, the world would be a very different place.
Lady Obscure: What are the plans for Telergy in the future?
Robert McClung: A few people have asked about Telergy performing live. As much as I would love to see this happen, it seems unlikely. Putting on a live performance of this music would involve a massive amount of production and dozens of musicians. So unless a financial backer comes along who wants to invest in the idea, I don’t see it happening any time soon.
The second album is already in the works. It will be a story based on a little known piece of New England history from the area where I grew up. Many well known musicians have jumped on board to be part of it, so it’s shaping up to be something pretty special.
Lady Obscure: Thank you for your time Robert, I am looking forward to the next album.
PS: You can find my review of the album, The Exodus here my lovelies!