Paul goes into detail on the story behind this release, so check out his website and find out more.
Waking the Dragon was composed and recorded over a period of five years, beginning in 2009, using a somewhat ancient PC running Cakewalk Pro Audio 9. I won’t get into all the complexities required to achieve this music on this system, but let us say the process was painstaking.
I see this recording as a tribute to the fans of the music I wrote for Bloodsport and Kickboxer, so I have alluded to the scores of those films with certain sounds and attitudes, though I add the disclaimer that all the music itself is completely new and original.
The opening track, “The Need,” begins with a bell-like sound produced on the Yamaha DX7 that I used throughout Bloodsport. I continue using that sound both as a melody instrument and a sound effect across almost the entire CD. The fighting tracks, “The Renewal” and “The Final Battle,” are underpinned with the same tuned triangle sounds from the Alesis HR-16 that I used in Kickboxer. The pulsating ostinato sound underlying the final section of “The Final Battle” is the same DX7 sound that provides the main pulse of “Fight to Survive” along with many of the fight cues in Bloodsport. Several other DX7 sounds from both films make appearances here and there, along with some sounds from the Roland D50 that I used on Kickboxer. Anything that sounds like an electric guitar is from my first sampling instrument, the Ensoniq Mirage (one of the first built – it created almost all of the guitar sounds on Bloodsport and Kickboxer and much of the percussion on those scores), though the Mirage gave out about halfway through this project. (If you know anyone who can repair them, let me know.) I also use a few sounds from the Proteus 1 that I used on Breathing Fire, but the bulk of the sounds on this CD were produced by the Emulator X, a software sampler that resides in a slightly more up-to-date PC than the one that runs Cakewalk, though it, too, is more or less obsolete.
I am very fond of many of the Emulator X sounds, which include the main lead instrument, an Irish flute sample, virtually all of the drums and percussion, many of the sound effects, all of the strings, the basses, the harp, and too many others to name. Obviously I had to record each sound separately, so I am ever so grateful for all the years I spent recording various songs one musician at a time.
Tunes that sound more in the pop vein, “The Renewal” and “Miles to Go” for example, I wrote directly into the computer. The more complicated cues that required orchestration, such as “The Need,” “The Search,” “The Awakening,” and “The Fall of the Ancient Warrior,” I wrote out on score paper before entering into the computer so that I could get my voice leading into proper shape. String parts especially need to appear visually on score paper for me to understand the relationships between the individual lines.
Throughout the composing process, I tried to keep in mind the fans of my scores while also allowing my music to reflect my growth as a human being and musician since the late ’80s when I wrote my film music. Also I have now the advantage of decades of technological improvement. It amazes me how primitive my earlier music sounds as well as how much it cost to produce in traditional studios with engineers, musicians, tape costs, etc. etc. etc. Now anyone with an ear can produce infinitely more sophisticated recordings in the home studio than I did back in the day in expensive, well-equipped studios. And that is what we have here: a group of tunes written, performed, and engineered entirely by me in a corner of my home office.
Waking the dragon - a cautionary talePerhaps each listener will provide his own scenario to go with this music. Certainly the martial arts are involved. Certainly conflict arises and is ultimately resolved. Perhaps the story depicts a martial arts contest; I’ve done that before. Perhaps the story involves a societal struggle that requires a hero to sort out the crooks and corrupt politicians. Here is the story I imagined as I composed:
(1) “The Need”
Several years after the retirement of the last of the “dragons,” corruption, crime, and venality have overtaken the supposedly good intentions of the weak politicians who, full of the promise of empty words with their thieving fingers hidden, took control of the capitol after the so-called “final campaign.” Now these politicians themselves have become mere puppets of the crime bosses, and fear rules both capitol and countryside. The ordinary, law-abiding citizens are only too aware of their need for a hero.
(2) “The Search”
A young man, whose mother claims he was fathered by the last dragon, has come of age without the teachings of his “father,” without even knowing his father, without even truly knowing if his mother was correct in naming his father. But this young man has faith. He “knows” in his heart that the dragon is his father, and he recognizes the need of his people for honor, justice, and peace. Seeing no alternative, the young man leaves for the countryside to seek the dragon and his assistance. Will the old man be able to return to his former powers and glory? Or will he train the youngster to take his place? The young would-be hero does not know. He only knows he must do something.
(3) “A Disturbance”
Searching the depths of an ancient forest, last known dwelling place of the dragon, the young man disturbs the balance of nature, finally coming to the attention of a very old man.
(4) “The Awakening”
The old man exudes calm patience. He listens to the youngster. His mind comes slowly to grips with the facts of modern times. He realizes what his retirement without a replacement has cost the people, and he comes to the conclusion that he must engage with the enemies of peace and justice.
Back in the capitol, the boss of all bosses struts, poses, and inflicts pain with impunity.
(6) “Not Yet Prepared”
The old man is not restored to his former power, if he ever will be, and the young man has yet to receive training. An encounter with the forces of darkness comes too soon, resulting in pain, damage, bewilderment.
(7) “Despair or Determination?”
Both the ancient warrior and the youngster must battle despair and find the resolution to prepare to return to the battle.
(8) “The Renewal”
The old man, who is indeed the retired dragon, trains himself and his new apprentice. The dragon, it soon becomes apparent, will never reclaim his prior glory, but gradually the apprentice reveals his talent and acquires the dragon’s ancient skills. Perhaps he is truly the heir of the ancient warrior.
(9) “The Fall of the Ancient Warrior”
As all too often occurs, the mentor falls, ambushed by insidious trickery.
(10) “The Final Battle: The New Dragon Wakes”
Facing the forces of evil without his mentor, the young apprentice falters at first, but discovers his inner strength in the midst of battle. The new skills and raw talent, burnished in the crucible of battle, lead to triumph and the emergence of a new dragon, the mighty warrior who can restore peace and honor.
(11) “Miles to Go”
The new dragon journeys back to the capitol. Caution accompanies victory as much struggle remains.