The Concept Of Ethereal
e-the-re-al ~ Characterized by lightness and insubstantiality; intangible. Highly refined; delicate. Of the celestial spheres; heavenly. Not of this world; spiritual.
I'm not an expert on concept albums, but I am familiar with a couple of them - most notably Pink Floyd's The Wall (1979), The Who's Tommy (1969), and Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime (1988) - and the seamless story telling found on these classic albums. Concept albums, as I understand it, tell a story with the lyrics so one can read the words to all the songs from start to finish like a book. But conceptual albums do not have to only rely on the lyrics - they can also employ story telling from the musical side, as in Brian Wilson's (The Beach Boys) 1966 classic, Pet Sounds, which, at the time, was considered to be groundbreaking in its production qualities, as well as allowing the listener to feel the emotions of the writer in a flowing manner through both lyrics and melodies.
I never set out to make a concept album, but as I neared the end of recording Ethereal, I couldn't help but notice a pattern in the lyrics and music. This pattern is loosely structured around emotions and feelings that I witnessed during the recording of Ethereal - September 2004 through October 2006. During a time of depression, one feels conflicted and lost - almost ready to just give up on life. But through this darkness, a hand came outstretched - a hand that promised the contradiction of new confidence, as well as new insecurities.
Ethereal is the story of a dying relationship and the fateful grace found in an imperfect new life, where the only way to keep sane is to try and say ... goodbye.
The art on Ethereal are photographs of cemetery angels. I have to admit that I am quite fascinated with this form of artwork. The sad beauty of these sculptures just speaks to me. The cover, the inside flap, and the back of Ethereal each depict hauntingly beautiful cemetery angels contemplating the life of the tragic soul they now guard, who themselves died wondering what their life could have been. I also quoted the famous English poet, Samuel T. Coleridge (1772-1834) on the CD's inside flap:
"If a man is not rising upward to be an angel, depend on it, he is sinking downward to be a devil."
No truer words have ever been expressed regarding the constant struggle here on earth played out in the hearts of humans - the choice of good versus evil. Does one listen to angels or devils?
For the purpose of this essay, Ethereal is divided into three suites. Suite 1 consists of the first five songs on the CD, Suite 2 has songs 6-10, and Suite 3 has songs 11-14. Musically, there is no audible separation between the three suites on the CD, but there is a natural shifting of expression at these moments.
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