Singled Out: Orissa's Tara


Orissa has a rockin' new album called "Resurrection" and to celebrate we asked mastermind David Dodini to tell us the in-depth story behind the single "Tara". Here is the story:

Hi. I want to thank Singled Out for choosing me to talk about the story behind the first single off of my forthcoming album. The song is called, "Tara", and the album is titled, "Resurrection."

Before we start I want to say that I am not a big fan of verbal descriptions and interpretations of music or visual art or wine or food ... for two primary reasons. The first is that the whole point of playing and recording music, or creating anything for that matter, is to let it speak for itself. The second is that I have confidence in and a preference for the audience to actively listen and form their own interpretations and stimulate their own creative imaginations.

That said, I am embracing this opportunity to discuss some aspects of, "Tara", in depth with the goal of providing some framework for how I create and interpret my music and poetry so that it can serve as a guide for how one might start building their own interpretations and finding their own meaning in my music and poetry.

I am going to do this in two parts. The first part will be focused on a couple of the many themes and sub-texts that are at the core of the inspiration behind this song, without delving into the personal circumstances and emotions of the person who wrote it. The second part will be a new and interesting way of interpreting the music that you probably have not encountered before. I will use a simplified version of an exercise that my music history, literature and composition teacher, Robert Greenberg, had us engage in when I was a student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Dr. Greenberg is a fascinating composer and educator and I recommend you search for him and check out his music and his educational offerings.

This exercise is called a word score. We would always build a word score for a piece of music as a first exercise before we delved into the depths and rigors of formal analysis of the technical aspects of the compositions we studied. I liked that exercise because it always respected the music as a sonic painting and the irrational yet somehow rational aural story that is the true essence of a piece of music.

So, after discussing some aspects of the story presented in the poetry, I will do a simplified and verbal word score of the music. Let's dive into this.

The Text: An Interpretation: Tara is the opening scene or act on the album. In the settling, dungeon aired, dust of the introductory, ambient track, "Circle X", the scene is set, and we find our protagonist head in hands in a purgatory - a self inflicted hell. Tara introduces us to the protagonist and his emotional state, his awareness of it, and his desire to take responsibility for it.

Tara is invoked by the protagonist with a pained, vicious and determined cry for mercy singing out over a ferocious, grinding riff. The protagonist invokes, specifically, Red Tara. In Himalayan spiritual and religious traditions, Red Tara is a fierce deity. When divined these fierce deities are often confused as threatening, ferocious and terrorizing demons. However, they are in fact sources of help to be enlisted on the path away from suffering. I think they are a metaphor for coming to terms with the struggles and self inflicted suffering we go through in life. I love the metaphor even more, because it acknowledges the power of exercising our free will. We can see the suffering as suffering and suffer more in resistance, or we can accept it and look to it for answers that enable us to move beyond it.

Red Tara is a specific reference that I chose very carefully and consciously to show that the protagonist is ready for conscious growth, and recognizes the ferocious deity not as a danger or terror or threat, but as a necessary guide and agent of change and transformation. The protagonist recognizes that he is trapped in circles, cycles and patterns. He takes responsibility for his suffering and is doing so with humility by bowing to the great Goddess and accepting her wisdom and guidance.

This is a bit about the what lies behind the poetry.

The Musical Journey and Painting: The Simplified Word Score: The music propels and reflects the emotional journey of the protagonist. It starts with a ferocious, grinding riff that also serves as a bridge between the verses. Perhaps subconsciously it emerged as a representation of the terrorizing Red Tara appearing, easily confused as a dangerous and threatening demon.

The opening and middle verses bob on a riff that reflects the protagonist's acknowledgment of his disequilibrium as it flips and displaces the downbeat at irregular intervals. In the verses the protagonist is having clarity and realizations, but they are precarious moments as they erupt into despondent cries over the opening riff.

The song's middle section begins by moving into an exotic landscape created by thinned out unison chords played over a poly-rhythmically evolving percussion section. The bass maintains contact with a menacing emotional undercurrent as it plays its ostinato drone by hammering the bridge with the thumb.

A melodic and rhythmic variation on the opening riff winds its way up and down through the middle and high registers in the bass. This melody is emancipated in an unexpected and distant modulation in the accompanying chords while the melody is taken up to a climax in the guitar and joined in unison with the main vocal. This is the album's first pivotal moment. It is a moment of divination and realization that starts the protagonist on a journey of healing that is laden with insight and transformation that lasts for the duration of the record.

In the second half of the middle section, a hypnotic, clean guitar pattern underscores the protagonists understanding that he is trapped in endless circles of unconscious pattern and repetition. The section closes with an impassioned scream of determination to break destructive cycles and patterns.

This scream is taken up by a lead guitar that breaks out into a solo. This guitar solo is played over a harmonic progression that modulates several times - continually building the tension. These modulations perhaps appeared to the author subconsciously by taking the author and the audience up through the circles of purgatory into higher realms of new potentials. The mysteries of the creative process folks! This section culminates with the bass playing an arpeggiated chordal figure with a melody in the top voice that is evocative of bells ringing out from great towers, temples or cathedrals.

The music halts on a sustained chord until the ferocious opening riff explodes one last time - winding and grinding with new, subtle, melodic variations. This time it serves not as a transitory bridge but as a final verse where the vocal maintains its high intensity as the protagonist acknowledges his indolence and submits his penitence to the great and ferocious Goddess in an act of humility that is necessary for healing transformation.

At last, the final chorus rings out. This time it is shortened as it drives with increasing eagerness, desire even desperation to reach its musical and poetic conclusion. The cadence introduces a brand new melodic phrase that soars to a culminating climax with the protagonist and the band screaming in unison for deliverance.

Closing Thoughts: I hope this has provided some insight into just a few of the layers of meaning from my interpretation of, "Tara". It was a pleasure to share this with you. "Tara" is currently streaming on Spotify and Soundcloud, and available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon and Play.

There are more singles, videos and the full album release coming throughout the next few months. To follow the progress, please Like and Follow the Orissa Facebook page here. Feel free to share your interpretations of Tara and subsequent releases from the new album. Take a listen here

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