Episode 004: The Garden of Nebamun
In which we discuss Terry Pratchett, 10/4 time, and ducks
Old flicks set in Egypt. Archeological digs. Camels. Greedy explorers braving sandstorms and angry spirits just to plunder ancient treasures…
They had it coming, really. The scarab attacks, the flying poison daggers, the ending up a pile of bones for the next group to discover.
Once Karl Freund’s The Mummy lit the fire in me on some childhood Saturday afternoon, the lure of the land of Tut proved inescapable. On-screen adventures with Indiana Jones. Page turners from Agatha Christie, H. Rider Haggard. “The Pyramids” by Terry Pratchett.
Let’s not forget Tomb Raider. The video game. The movie. Angelina…
The mystery of Egypt cannot be contained by a genre. I invite you to explore this latest examination...
The inspiration for this week’s beat: one of the frescos painted on the walls of the Tomb of Nebamun, “discovered” in the 1820s and hacked off the walls with axes and stolen away by “explorers“. Now it’s in the British Museum, natch.
“We have an axe, we hacked it off the wall, so now it’s ours.” Sounds like an Eddie Izzard routine.
Anyway, it’s actually called something like “Tomb of Nebamun: Pond in a Garden.” I think that’s just a bit too unwieldy for us.
This painting has it all: a pond (of course), date palms, sycamore trees, a goddess over there in the corner, fish, lemons. And ducks.
I keep these reductions simple. This one is simple to the extreme: a pond and six trees. That’s pretty much it.
There’s definitely an Edenic quality to the whole scene. I felt that the music would have to be equal parts ethereal and spooky to set the proper mysterious mood.
Speaking of mysteries, what is happening in this intro? No idea. I think I wanted it to sound like some combination of slithering asps and footsteps.
Plenty of polyrhythms in my music, but the beats are all for the most part 4/4 – except for when they’re not. I'll play five against four often [too often probably], but in this instance, I just put the whole thing in 10/4.
I felt the middle eight needed some dripping, cascading lines to accentuate the spooky, delicate sound of the beat. I remember I played the descending line in one go, but the pattern I played there is the type that I find myself playing a lot – no idea where it comes from. Everybody’s got licks in their bag that they don’t remember finding.
I doubled up on it and repeated the whole thing a half step up. Then in the coda a minor third up, I believe.
So how did they build the pyramids? This question has plagued generations. I hope they never find out. [Learning that Cleopatra was not actually Egyptian was quite a disappointment.]
If you really must know, however, here’s how:
visit ancient tomb on solstice,
capture sunbeam in mirror,
angle toward secret opening and all will be revealed.
Don’t forget the offerings. But do forget to tell me what you discover.
Until next week, thanks for reading Polyester City. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment by clicking the link above. If you know anyone who likes Music and Art and Stories [and mummies], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.