In 2011 I recorded a CD, ALPHABETA (released 2012), of music composed using the letters that spell words for the notes of each piece. For instance the melody of “Defaced” went D-E-F-A-C-E-D. Two more volumes have followed.

“ALPHABETA is an experiment in translating musical notation to words to actual music. By creating a sort of musical Boggle, he, for example, finds a path for the notes A, C, D, E, G to spell C-A-G-E-D, and following that staff, produces a spiritual tribute to the composer. The liner notes include brief biographies of all 17 (!) pieces, written in a charmingly self-conscious tone, where he worries abut whether he is just chasing a gimmick, praises the creative stimulus of working under such strict constraints, and namedrops some artists who lent inspiration to the album’s post-rock sound (Cage, Swans, Rhys Chatham, Tortoise, etc). Alphabeta is impressive not only because Rehlinger succeeds in his experiment, but by clocking in at just under an hour with every piece feeling fully realized, the sheer epic scope is a dizzying triumph onto itself.” ~ Weird Canada

CD available Here.

The nine tracks on ALPHABETA 2: Outskirts were first sketches, demos and out-takes. Some I rejected purely for (what I now see as relatively minor) flaws in the recording or performance, some because I recorded two versions of the “word” and chose the other for the album.

Ironically, I feel these abandoned takes hold together more cohesively than the original album. There’s a continuity of sound and approach (a sort of spaghetti western jazz) that was missing from the hodge-podge approach of the official album.

About half the original ALPHABETA album turned out exactly as I intended. The other half… eh, I guess I was never happy with it. Some pieces were too embellished in the arrangements, others too cutesy in my attempt to tie the dictionary definition of the word thematically to the piece. Often that approach resulted, I felt, in some hamfisted results where the music suffered as I forced it to conform to the concept of the project.

Still, other pieces disregarded the literal meaning of the word altogether and because of this, it seemed, the work as a whole was disjointed.

Here I’ve returned to the concept and reduced it to its basic elements: the notes themselves.

To aid in this, I’ve used the same synthesized organ voice for each track and used echo loops in the manner of Terry Riley. This time, I’ve let the notes speak for themselves and ignored the literal meaning of the word. Save, perhaps, “DEAF” with its tinnitus-like ringing at the end and “BE” could be used as an aid to a meditation on simply “being”.

I feel these compositions work better than the original album as any correlation between title and the music was purely serendipitous; the music came first, the gimmick followed along behind.

“So many great poets exercise in form; the subtle limitations account for limitless variations on a theme. Toronto’s BABEL apply similar sensibilities to experimental ambiences and continues a prolific legacy. These two discs complete an Alphabeta trilogy where form meets concept and words become instrumental music. Outskirts, a collection of original demos and sketches, is an honest look at an artist itching an idea to blissful satisfaction. On Organizm, BABEL has embraced the inevitable drone of this mad experiment and allowed a brilliant idea to take control of the creation. This series of recordings is pure synthetic authenticity.” ~ Weird Canada

ALPHABETA Live @ The Holy Oak 2012-09-26 in Toronto. Handbells performed by the Pavlov’s Dogs Handbell Ensemble. Recorded by Joe Strutt.