the secret of happiness

steve roden / in be tween noise
cassette w/ 8 page booklet
edition: 50
starfish music

  1. the secret of happiness
  2. fragment of gold
  3. frost on the wings of an angel
  4. and go the great man

this was the very first release of my solo music, before the name in be tween noise was used.

sounds: synthesizers, bass, guitars, tape loops, a recording of robert penn warren reading from an old caedmon LP. sean songolia and allan nakagawa played on ‘the secret of happiness’.

the entire text from inside the accompanying booklet:

“the secret of happiness” was composed in two stages. the first used an arbitrary system that enabled me to transcend my personal “nuances”, and to begin the second stage, inspiration, in an unfamiliar place.

i began with the name “ambrose bierce”, and the phrase “the secret of happiness”. each letter and the space before each word were given the value of a quarter note.

the letters that corresponded to the scale – a, b, c, d, e, f, g – sounded as notes.
all other letters equaled rests, thus, ‘ambrose bierce’ became:
a – rest – b – rest / rest – rest – e – rest / b-rest – e – rest / c – e.

while the phrase “the secret of happiness” became:
rest – rest – e – rest / rest – e – c – rest / e – rest – rest – rest / f – rest – rest – a / rest – rest – rest – rest –  / e – rest – rest.

the two phrases become two single melodic lines that repeat throughout the entire piece. these melodies interact and create harmonies that change due to the difference in the length of each melodic line.

since these two lines are played on a bell-type of sound, they also create a varying rhythmic structure; therefore, the very foundation of the piece is based upon chance that when these words are translated into music, via this system, they will in some way be inspiring, so as to bring forth the rest of the music.

this music, that which comes about through inspiration, is the other side of the piece, the counterpoint to that which is created through the use of a rigorous and structured system.

all of this should not detract from the act of pure listening. these notes are just ideas that inspiration has been built upon. just as the notion of ambrose bierce traveling to mexico in 1913 and disappearing without a trace can spark a multitude of musical ideas within this composer, so goes the hope that a small clutter of sounds, without all this rhetoric, can in turn give some inspiration to the listener.

‘the nearer one approaches pure art, the more purpose falls away from the thing, until it stands there alone, to fulfill itself.’ r. m. rilke.