Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Man & The Journey

The Man & The Journey

The Man and The Journey were two song cycles that comprised an album-length piece that was performed live in concert in 1969 under the title of More Furious Madness from the Massed Gadgets of Auximenes. This was the first attempt by Pink Floyd to create an extended conceptual piece. The idea of using new and existing material to create some kind of musical narrative or scenario had been percolating for some time.

In early 1968, Blackhill Enterprises had applied for a grant from the Arts Council of Great Britain, with the intention of using the funds to become solvent as well as finance a specific new project. Roger became quite excited about an idea that was very new at the time, the concept of using contemporary music to create a narrative.

Roger Waters: "It would be a story, using other groups, written as a saga, like the Iliad, so that it doesn't just become a pop show with someone walking on and introducing the groups. I don't want any of that scene. There would be a narrator, possibly John Peel, and there would be a quality in the production of the material. It would be a non-profit-making scene — nothing to do with selling records. I'd like Arthur Brown to play the Demon King with the Floyd providing the music. It would be telling a story like a fairy tale. A definite scene with good and evil..."

However, the grant was rejected, and the idea of structuring the Floyd's music in this way first came to fruition in 1969. Almost definitely at Roger's behest, over approximately twenty days in late March and early April of 1969, the group continued their spurt of creativity (they had just completed More in eight days flat) by piecing together two half-hour conceptual song cycles out of new and existing material. The band had already decided to record a disc composed entirely of solo material later that year (this would become one half of Ummagumma). Work had probably started on this (at least for Roger and Dave) in late January and early February of 1969. A few songs from this project were combined with a couple of tunes from the More soundtrack, some new material was created by the entire group, and two concept pieces of seven songs each came into being: The Man and The Journey. This was the stroke of genius that would set the precedent for the mega-blockbuster concept albums of the seventies.

The suites were premiered as soon as they were finished, at a concert on 14 April 1969, at the Royal Festival Hall, London. They would be performed at least twice more, though there may be instances of their performance as yet undocumented.

The first half of the concert was The Man Suite. This was a series of pieces intended to tell the story of a day in the life of the average man. This song cycle begins with daybreak, follows through with work and afternoon tea, continues with 'a bit of the other,' sleep, and a nightmare, before day breaks once again. The pieces comprising The Man suite consisted of two tunes that would be recorded in the Ummagumma sessions two months later, three short original instrumentals that were never recorded, and one song that had recently been recorded for More.

The Journey is a much less down-to-earth song cycle which seems to chronicle a fantasy adventure in the mythic tradition. Interestingly enough, whether consciously or unconsciously, the story follows the stages that make up what scholars of mythology (e.g. Joseph Campbell) call 'The Hero's Journey.' It begins quietly enough, but then creatures of the deep, pink jungles and labyrinths arrive on the scene, seeming to trace a 'road of trials' before arriving at a destination, followed by a triumphant return and an end to the journey.

What was in the minds of Roger and the group when they put together this piece has never been adequately documented and the intention is much more opaque than for the simple Man suite. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of artistic license, and inferred the possible meaning of each song in the context of a heroic adventure (see individual song entries). The implications are there, and given his comments of the previous year (see above), I think it's likely that this is what Roger had in mind.

The Journey was made up of three previously recorded tunes in a different form, one song each from More and the upcoming Ummagumma, and two original instrumentals, totaling the magic number of seven. In an interview, Nick Mason talked about the 14 April premier of More Furious Madness from the Massed Gadgets of Auximenes. During the performance of Nightmare at this show, they pioneered the 'footsteps scene' (see Cymbaline on More). Though the footsteps themselves were a tape, the control of the directional sound in the hall was live, and used a very early form of the pan pot, nicknamed the 'Azimuth Coordinator System' by the band.

Nick Mason: "Basically I was pleased with last night's show; it was definitely a very important step for us as a group. I remember our show two years ago in the Queen Elizabeth Hall when we demonstrated our first 'fantastic' sound system and we all thought it was exactly what we wanted to do. But things change, and this concert was just as vital as that one was, and since then a lot of ideas have changed about the kind of music we want to play. One thing I felt was that perhaps we were over-elaborate [at the 14 April show]. For instance the Azimuth Coordinator System might have been improved if we had simplified it by having, say, four speakers round the hall instead of six. I am sure a lot of the audience couldn't really differentiate between each speaker. The footsteps scene was perfect. If we can develop this kind of thing into an even bigger and better stage without getting too technically involved, we will be going in the right direction."

And Dave talked about why the suites were never recorded and released.
Dave Gilmour: "At one point there was talk of doing an album of this show, but we never did it, largely because lots of the material was pinched from other bits we'd already done."

The Man
Doing It
Daybreak part two
The Journey
Beginning, The
Beset by the Creatures of the Deep
Narrow Way, The
Pink Jungle, The
Labyrinths of Auximenes, The
Behold the Temple of Light
End of the Beginning, The

No comments:

Post a Comment