Where it’s at

6-a-martial-artist-600x350Another blog in the recent series on the Rodrigo y Gabriela album, 11:11. 

Atman, at track 10, is neck-and-neck for my favorite song on this album, Hora Zero, and it has a similarly wonderful zippy energy. Unlike Hora Zero, which is like a horse at full gallop, the rhythm of Atman is more that of a Sufi, spinning, or a master martial artist zinging her way through opponents in a delightfully circular fashion.

To me this song is now permanently associated with a character in my head. He’s the title character of a novel I’m working on, and is, among other things, a martial artist. Daily he trains so that his skills don’t atrophy, and while his daily session always begins gently, it always ends with the brain-twisting combination of grace and violence that master martial artists manage with ease. This song is the soundtrack for that swirling mass of chaos that you hope doesn’t come your way.

Partway through the track, our two artists are joined by a third, guest musician, on the electric guitar, Alex Skolnick, whom you may know is both a heavy metal guitarist, and a very talented jazz musician. The emotional impact of the advent of the electric guitar is significant in the music taken at face value. The electric guitar does what it does best: wails and keens, and with the two electric acoustics fading slightly to allow Skolnick the spotlight, what is revealed is pure emotion in turmoil.

Delving back into my head and the characters that live there, this is the moment in the heat of what can also be understood as simply a really intense cardio workout, where the unconscious pain and frustration, the suffering of the soul, rises to the surface and screams, over and over again. What began as a gentle training session and escalated to an advanced black belt weapons kata has now just opened the floodgates of suppressed emotion and nothing is held back.

Well, this is what goes on in my head while I listen to it, at least. In fact one of the readers of said novel pointed out this and similar YouTube videos, many made up from clips of Hellboy 2, that were nice visual representations of how my main character might look when he trains. Admittedly, this one, complete with outtakes you won’t find in the movie, is set to a different bit of music, which ends abruptly, so feel free to mute it and think about Atman instead. Regardless of what you choose to listen to, the visuals are good. There’s a lot of spinning involved.

The song was actually dedicated to Dimebag Darrell. It is also one of two tracks on the album for which a previous track leads into it – both examples have a shorter, meditative track leading into a longer, active and zippy track. The lead in for Atman is Chac Mool, and the other example is Logos leading into Santo Domingo.

Here is what I’m fairly sure is the actual track from the album, on YouTube, and just for variety, here’s a live version from a concert in Ybor City in Tampa, Florida. The live version doesn’t have the same sort of clean transitions, really begins at the 1:00 mark, and until the 3:00 mark has Skolnick mimicking the melody line on his own electric acoustic. It’s really obvious when he stops that, because he changes guitars. Still, variety is nifty.

As a side note, I do believe that Atman and Hora Zero both would be excellent songs to firebend to, for those friends of mine who are fire spinners/fire eaters. Beats hearing The Prodigy’s Firestarter one more time.

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