Allow me to explain...
Released October 22nd, 2021
Since the release of my LP Bloom & Brimstone, many folks have said that my music belongs in film and television. Certainly, I’d love to oblige, but as of this writing the stars have yet to align and my seemingly non-stop efforts to be heard above the din have failed marvelously. While I realize composing to picture is different than composing to images conjured from the imagination, I remain a steadfast adherent to the notion that music is transformative and that it’s the great conduit of emotion and ideas. So in the absence of a cinematically paired project, I decided to Hell with it— I’ll just score an imaginary film. With that, Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you, Budapest Undead.
As the soundtrack & score to a horror movie that never existed, Budapest Undead is a concept album of sorts. Released around Halloween by design, the hope is that it’s received as more than just spooky orchestral music with a Hungarian / Eastern European flair. In keeping with the old adage that the book is always better than the movie, my wish is that through the music, the listener will be able to transport themselves into their own personal horror film narrative. Imagine the flickering marquee: Now Showing in minds everywhere—Budapest Undead.
Although cliché, everyone is familiar with the horror genre and I figured most listeners could effortlessly generate the cinematically tinged images required to accompany the music. The Undead part of the title is purposefully a little nebulous and while it skews toward the West, the suspension between living and not, seems to have near universal resonance. Of course Budapest, the great capitol city of Hungary, ties into the cimbalom instrument I use frequently throughout, and as an old European city, it represents a lively collision of tradition and modernity whilst remaining timeless, beautiful and eminently mysterious.
While all tethered together in service of theme, each piece represents its own narrative in miniature and I’ve tried my best to title them in the spirit of their conception. Still, I’d like the listener to fill in the gaps and bring their own images and story points to the experience, and that’s why I’ve intentionally remained somewhat mum on dictating story.
For those desperate to hang precious bits of flesh onto setting, I offer the following possible points to get you started: driven by the constant pulsating desire for sex and blood, the immortal undead are enthralled by novelty in both departments. So when the ancient Pharaonic elixir that allows for psychic control, flight and invisibility is stolen, the timeless order of the great Houses rests on a nest of vicious, beautiful, and rebellious female vampires for its return. As suspicion gives way to prophecy, a violent struggle wrests control away from the Masters and an unlikely young vampire ascends to be anointed Queen.
As you listen you may notice some pieces are more like songs in terms of structure and others seem to push forward with little regard for restatement or repetition. For me it is the distinction between soundtrack and score, with the latter being marked by free thematic exploration which strives toward depicting an event and is less bound by a structure rooted in repeated sections. To be sure, I’ve tried to mix the two on several pieces and the result for me, is an architecture that offers both illuminating surprises and the reassurance of thematic repetition and structural closure.
Beyond themes and mechanics, the album’s tense, dramatic and heavy handedness come directly out of the months leading up to the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Many of the pieces came together at that time and were in their infancy during the beginning of the pandemic as early as May of 2020. Along with the dread of a species ending virus and the global lock-down that ensued, there was a constant pounding of high drama here in the United States. The national protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder and the absolute insanity generated by Trump and his henchmen only added fuel to the already high level of anxiety felt throughout the country.
As a result the album was born in a kind of suffocating isolation and was steeped in mass paranoia, worry, uncertainty and overall dread. As a work of art Budapest Undead is an escapist object lesson, and for me, making it was a necessary fantasy and a delightful misdirection from an “in-real-life” reality gone truly haywire. Nevertheless, I hope you can separate the child from the bed it was sired in, and allow yourself the chance to let go and enjoy Budapest Undead.
With my compliments always!
Hotel Drisco, San Francisco. October 2021