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Prospit & Derse - Commentary

4.1k words across 9 entries.

Album commentary

Solatrus: (original Bandcamp blurb)

The twins of Skaia, locked in combat's hold
One a shadow of fate, one a heart of gold.

Watch as we see the children who dream,
Of worlds so unlike anything we've seen.

Now, listen to the sound that has been rehearsed.
The sound of dreams... of Prospit and Derse.

Special thanks to:
Nick Smalley
Marcy Nabors

Solatrus: (one year anniversary)

Propsit & Derse 1 Year Anniversary Commentary

It's really insane that it's been one year since this album came out. And what's even more remarkable is how much I've improved as a musician since then. But let's turn the clock back and I'll tell you the story of how it all started.

This whole thing is going to be done in the order of how I created the album, which was Derse and then Prospit, but not precisely in that order.

Where It All Began

It wasn't too long after Volume 6 was released that I started debating a solo album. I knew that I enjoyed contrasts, but I really loved ethereal sounds. I had actually considered doing a Medium album, but Clark beat me to it. However, Prospit & Derse had already been started before Medium was out.

So where did the album's concept come from? Well, a conversation I had with Lexxy, actually! We were brainstorming ideas and we got into talking about the moons, and then the idea sunk in for me to do a solo album, which was actually called Derse/Prospit (yes, slash included).

Pretty cool, huh? And Lexxy helped with the album cover, which is really great.

But anyway, I eventually started working on some of the music. I knew Prospit was going to be a struggle for me, because I had never written any proper orchestral music at the time. And the first song I created was this, albeit it was in drum and bass and not nearly as polished sounding.

But I really didn't like the direction, so I ended up scrapping it and trying to figure out how to start over. And then Medium was released and I was incredibly inspired and remembered how great atmospheric music is. Clark Powell single-handedly saved this album from being killed before it even got anywhere.

And that's when I created Darkened Streets.

Solatrus: (2020 rerelease blurb)

My solo album from Homestuck!

Homestuck © Homestuck

Music © Solatrus

References to other works © their respective artists

Copyrighted material used with permission

Hallowed Halls

Solatrus: (original commentary)

Hm, I haven't thought much about Prospit & Derse since its release, actually, but, here goes.

As you can probably tell, the two halves of the album have some parallels, especially in the first two songs: e.g., Hallowed Halls is to Darkened Streets as Golden Towers is to Obsidian Towers. I originally wrote Darkened Streets, but I really wanted to take the melody and progression used in it and apply it to a brassy fanfare. That's ultimately what Hallowed Halls came to be. Honestly, if it wasn't for Marcy helping me name the song, I probably wouldn't've had the right image in my head for the new arrangement.

And Nick Smalley helped me out with those french horns, making them sound halfway decent.

Not really much else other than this song and Core of Darkness are without a doubt the best two on the album.

Solatrus: (one year anniversary)

The opener for Prospit & Derse, at least, in the album's final lineup. This was actually track #5 for the longest period of time, but I realized just before release that Prospit had a stronger opening track and Derse had a stronger closing track.

This was a really fun song to create, and definitely helped set the example of how I wanted to approach Prospit for awhile. Hilariously, if you listen to how the album's set up, there's actually 4 sets of songs. Hallowed Halls and The Golden Towers have a lot of similar instruments, and are both designed as parallels to Darkened Streets and The Obsidian Towers, which also have a similar set of instruments. I ended up veering off into totally unique territory for each half's Dreamers, and ended up continuing in those new directions for the 4th tracks.

A big thanks to Nick and Marcy for helping me get this particular track started. Marcy gave me some good ideas (as well as naming this song) for how to put together some of the melodic lines. Nick came along and pointed out how I should use the French Horns. So this track is almost completely why the two of them have special thanks credits on this album.

In retrospect, the song feels like it's a bit empty. For being what's supposed to be the Royal Palace of Prospit, the impact just isn't there, neither melodically nor atmospherically. It's not a bad song, but it just barely misses the mark that it deserved to hit.

However, I absolutely adored the art Bea did for this piece, and, well, .. hey wait the art up there is different than it used to be! Yup. Bea decided to update the art for Hallowed Halls, and she did and even better job than before. Oh, and here's the fun part on this: I had no idea she actually was doing this until a few days ago, and she forgot that the anniversary was yesterday! Anyway, here's what she had to say:

Bea:

contributing to homestuck, a webcomic thats given me so many opportunities, friends and good memories is a great honor, especially to be involved in an album as conceptually compelling and well executed as the prospit and derse album. i thank solatrus for the opportunity to be a part of his creation and everyone who helped me give back to something that has influenced my life immensely.

Solatrus:

Thanks for helping me out, Bea. And keep up the good work.

I have to say I'm pleased overall with this song, but, like any artist, it's difficult to look back at my works. They never seem completed. Especially the Prospit half for me.

Bea: (original track art)

The Golden Towers

Solatrus: (one year anniversary)

Oh boy. ...What to say on this one...

That probably frightens you a little, doesn't it? Yeah. Well, putting it simply this song tried too hard to be The Obsidian Towers. I really wanted to do that parallel idea with this song and its Derse counterpart more than any of the others, but I ended up trying too hard to pull off that effect. And this song suffered greatly for it.

To be fair, it's got a pretty cool twist on everything compared to Obsidian Towers, but the biggest problem with this song is that I didn't try to let it be itself. You have no idea how badly I want to redo this song. There's so much potential behind this song that, at the time, I really just didn't understand. Of course, I've learned a remarkable amount since then, and one day, hopefully soon, I will rewrite this song.

Haha, I sound like I'm really tearing into my work here, don't I? Well, it used to be Prospit Dreamers that I didn't like, but more on that a little later.

As I mentioned with The Obsidian Towers, both songs suffer from being really boring compositions. While Obsidian managed to get away with it because of my production skill, this song couldn't hide behind ill beats and a deliciously dark atmosphere. So, the very inexperienced composer in me tried his best to piece together a song based on The Obsidian Towers.

Is it horrible? Eh, I'll leave that judgment up to you. I know there are fans out there who really dig this song. My opinion is that it's my weakest song related to Homestuck, but really, it's not the worst thing I've ever done.

I'm quite pleased with what Pride did for the art, though. It worked out really well for the song.

As an additional note, it's been pointed out to me by this fan that this song sounds like it has Mark Hadley's Problem Sleuth theme in it, at least in part. It's a coincidence in the exact same reason that Frost gets the same comment: slow melodies, probably the same key. Really nothing else to it. I've listened to Hadley's PS theme probably twice ever. Oops. Said fan also wondered if I jokingly thought that gentlemen of Team Sleuth are Prospit's agents much like our chums in the Midnight Crew are Derse's. I didn't, but that's an awesome comparison and now I'm all for it.

Prospit Dreamers

Solatrus: (original commentary)

Oh boy.

Yeah.

I really don't know what I was thinking on this one. It was rushed, and it's, sadly, my least favorite work I've ever done. I had some interesting ideas, going with a bit of a swing flavor to it, but frankly the song sounds like I was going through ADD.

It probably doesn't help that I basically [wrote] a small, but significant, part of the song and set it aside for a few months before adding in the piano and bass parts and finishing it.

And by rushed I mean I was actually adding to this song days before the album came out. I wouldn't recommend anyone doing that ever.

Still, people seem to like the song, and to be fair, there's a few really neat parts in it. It's just, well, weak overall. I've done a lot better, and this song's 'failure,' so to speak, taught me a lot of valuable lessons.

Sorry if you were expecting something more positive!

Solatrus: (one year anniversary)

This song is freaking weird.

Now why do I say that? Well, it doesn't really know what it wants to be. A 6/8 piece somewhat reminiscent of something from the Legend of Zelda? A 4/4 piece? A swung piece? It's... well it's all of those.

Prospit Dreamers is without a doubt the most ambitious song I wrote for Prospit & Derse. I did a lot of really awkward things that worked out really well, but I had absolutely no idea why any of it worked. And so I ended up really hating the song because I thought it was too random!

Come a year later and I now I understand my composing style better, so when I listen to this I find it to be a pretty dang fascinating piece. A lot of individual parts making a very interesting greater whole.

If you think about the early part, it sounds like the Prospitians had created this really mellow 6/8 piece, but then John and Jade show up and mix it up with their (my headcanon) love of swing music.

I'm especially pleased with how I managed to fit Frost and Doctor together into this song, along with a little bit of Penumbra Phantasm, and still make the song stand on its own. It's a lot cooler sounding than what I did in Derse Dreamers, honestly!

My personal favorite part is the time signature switch when the clarinets come in and play an arrangement of that familiar motif from Penumbra Phantasm, and then the strong french horns playing the same line they played in Frost behind the trumpets playing Doctor's melody.

It's really hilarious how I used to not appreciate this song, but now I do. I actually enjoy it more than most of the album, and I'm really glad that my opinion changed, and I am also really glad I asked Zoey to do the art for this song, because her art is amazing, and her interpretation of John and Jade is the best. THE BEST. Speaking of, she informed me to tell you all the following:

Zilleniose:

Butts

Solatrus:

Butts indeed.

Center of Brilliance

Solatrus: (one year anniversary)

Expecting a different song, were you? B)

While this song was started pretty late into production, it was actually one of the first in the entire album to be completed. Both Hallowed Halls and Center of Brilliance were started around the same time, and I really don't remember which came first. It's been awhile, okay?

Anyway, if it wasn't one of the first to be completed, it was definitely the first. I'm actually pretty pleased with this song, because it helped me figure out the other direction I wanted to go in for Prospit.

The best part about this song is, without a doubt, the trumpet lines in the middle and near the end. While it's totally synthetic and sampled, I'm very pleased with how it sounds! I really love the section very close to the end where it's just a single trumpet and the clarinet section. It's one of the better motifs I've written, in my opinion, and I'm quite pleased with it.

That's not to say this song is perfect. The piano timing is a little too off and a little too noticeably cut-and-paste repeated. It's a really tiny nitpick, but I didn't even really notice it until earlier this week.

Oh, and in case you didn't know, this song was originally Prospit Dreamers. Why did I change my mind on it? Well, I couldn't figure out how to fit in Doctor (and by extension Penumbra Phantasm) and Frost into such a happy sounding song. It just wasn't really working for me, nor was the time signature.

But I definitely felt like the song was a great closer to this half of the album, and Shelby's art for the piece fit perfectly.

Darkened Streets

Solatrus: (one year anniversary)

This was definitely the song that started everything off. It's dark, dreary, but still majestic like the very moon it describes. The music takes on you a flight. You're one of the Derse Dreamers, the wind rushing across your face as you approach the moon's surface. Carapaces scurrying about, too afraid to be caught after curfew, wary of Jack Noir and his gang.

My original goal was to make this song set the example of how I perceive Derse. Dark, but not evil. Fitting for the Dreamers we know and love there.

I definitely tried to go into some new territory with this song. While I've always loved the Metroid Prime Trilogy soundtrack, this was my first real attempt at trying to imitate many quality's of that trilogy's music.

The violin that comes in pretty early on was actually added in near the end of the album's production, and the idea to really strongly associate every song with the kids didn't occur to me until part of the way into doing Prospit's half, but I'll get to that later.

I really have to say I like the the bass I chose for this song. It has a sort of heart beat quality to it. Very simple, very deep. But it really cuts through. Of course, I did get to do my favorite high pass/bitcrushed beats again, but this time I did a spin on it: Gross Beat. I mentioned it with Crystalanthology, but I used Gross Beat far more extensively in Derse.

When I was initially creating this song, Prospit & Derse was a concept album. You, the listener, would have been guided along a journey, first to Derse, going through the Darkened Streets, up the Obsidian Towers to where the Derse Dreamers were jamming out, before heading deep into the Core of Darkness, until you were suddenly transported to Prospit, appearing in the Hallowed Halls before repeating the journey with Prospit's counterparts. Honestly, if you listen to the album as Derse & Prospit instead, you still can kind of get that vibe!

You can definitely hear the idea of that in how it goes into The Obsidian Towers, but I ended up removing the more seemless transitions in favor of just having two somewhat parallel albums, and stuck with the parallel idea for awhile. This is the most obvious in the first two songs of each half. Hallowed Halls is based on Darkened Streets, and The Golden Towers is based on The Obsidian Towers.

In a side note, I'd love to link you to the artist who did the song cover art for Darkened Streets, but I've lost contact with them! If anyone knows where I can get in contact again, please let me know!

The Obsidian Towers

Solatrus: (one year anniversary)

I started to shift styles for this one a bit. I wanted something that was more majestic sounding, but still as dark as Darkened Streets. Ultimately, I decided to feature the choir section more in the intro. It actually was probably the first synth I put in this song. Everything basically followed.

I had a bit more fun with the bassline in this song, though it's not particularly complex. The focus definitely on the time shifting beats, a la Dave. Hell, Dave is the main reason I decided to use Gross Beat heavily. I wonder if Dave feels like a Time Lord as the Knight of Time?

The Obsidian Towers was actually one of the last songs I finished composing for the album, because I got totally stuck on it without having the string section in there.

Anyway, I think this song definitely describes the Towers well enough, though, I feel like I could have gone for something a bit more powerful in sound. Something more looming, more... ominous. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20, yeah? To be fair, The Golden Towers suffers from this issue as well, so it was probably also a composition problem. Woosp!

Nonetheless, the string section in this song, especially right at the end, is one of the cooler sounding harmonies I've thrown together.

I really have always loved the architecture Andrew picked for the moons, though personally I feel it fits Derse far better than Prospit.

Derse Dreamers

Solatrus: (original commentary)

Well, this is the most popular song from Prospit & Derse. Not surprised it eventually would show up. :>

This song, along with Core of Darkness, captures the very core idea I had in mind for the Prospit & Derse album: writing music about the settings, but showing that the mere existence of the kids on those moons influences the music as well.

Derse Dreamers was the first to actually reach that goal, and was actually the first song to be fully completed on the entire album.

Of course, this song being retroactively tossed into the Shut Up and Jam page helped with its popularity quite a bit.

Retroactively gaining an additional featured song... from a page that existed before my first real feature. How's that for weird time shit?

Solatrus: (one year anniversary)

The fan favorite. Without a freaking doubt. This one compares to Frost in popularity, and I'm willing to bet is probably even more popular thanks to horizon's vocal cover.

What's that? You hear Iron Man in it? Yeah, so do I. Oops. That string section is kind of hilariously similar. It's a huge coincidence, though, because I really don't listen to Black Sabbath whatsoever.

When I started this song, I knew I wanted two things: Rose playing violin, and Dave being a bad-ass with time-shifted beats. I ended up making the opening motif and let it repeat for most of the song. People seemed to really like the strong focus on Rose and Dave, but I think even more so people enjoyed the callbacks to their respective Medium world themes (Endless Climb and Atomyk Ebonpyre, respectively).

Though, maybe it was the name? Maybe it was the amazing art Mixt did? Speaking of, here's what she had to say:

Mixt:

I recall the idea was to draw Rose and Dave jamming on Derse, but the piece itself made me think of space, so they ended up jamming in the space between Derse and its moon instead. Rose's bowhand unfortunately reflects my own terrible grip when playing violin.

Also, I laughed when it was discovered that Derse Dreamers made it into [S] Rose and Dave: Shut up and jam just prior to the album's release. Fandom, you never cease to amaze me.

Solatrus:

I agree with her there. I was very amused when people noticed the change to that page even before I had the chance to mention it to anyone. Crazy fandom ninjas!

Yeah, that's pretty much all there is to this song. It was remarkably straightforward. I didn't do anything particularly surprising for myself on this one. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I did it.

More importantly, however, I'm thrilled this song is enjoyed by so many people, and I've been blown away how people have have been using this song in their own derivative works. It's just really heartwarming as an artist to see my work out there having a life of its own.

Core of Darkness

Solatrus: (original commentary)

Best song on Prospit & Derse. Period.

This was the song that made me realize my production had legitimately hit a professional level and wasn't ever going to go back.

This was the only Derse song that was written in response to a Prospit song. I wrote Center of Brilliance before Core of Darkness, and I really wanted to try to counter the very.. bright and circular (I guess?) feel I had with CoB.

Out of all of my production work, Core of Darkness has the most movie soundtrack sound to it, and that's pretty awesome. Fantastic way to close out the album.

It's also a nice precursor to my current interest in trip hop music.

Solatrus: (one year anniversary)

My favorite. While you all have a soft spot for Derse Dreamers, I have one for Core of Darkness. This is the song that made me actually say out loud, "Whoa, when did my music start sounding professional?"

Yeah. This one. I had more fun working on this song than any other song on this album. And it still stands out to me as being one of, if not, my best electronic/downbeat songs. I wasn't really sure what I was going with when I picked the name Core of Darkness. This song doesn't particularly have a "round" feel to it, amusingly. But I wanted to just grasp the raw essence, the core, if you will, of what Derse is, and continue with the idea that the kids influence the way the music sounds on the moons just as they affect many of the characters in the game through prototyping.

I'm very pleased with the string sections I did, though it's not really a complex melody. Lots of repetition, just like the rest of this half of the album. But the atmosphere is pretty damn awesome, and without a doubt set the tone for some of my future works. I wasn't aware that I actually really liked trip-hop at the time, but Nick introduced me to the genre, and it completely clarified why I enjoyed doing this half of the album so much.

I'm also very impressed with the art that Shad did, though it wasn't exactly what I had in mind. However, I preferred to let the artists have some free reign, so this actually turned out better than what I was thinking! Here's what she had to say on her piece and the rest of the album:

Shad Andrews:

When I was first asked about doing album art, it was really, really exciting!! Those who know me, know that I'm all about the carapace and everything in general, and having an album based on the kingdoms was really exciting and it was an honor to be confronted about it at all!

I've always dreamed to do things for Homestuck, just because of how it has affected me. I'm always up to doing things, and it's always great when I'm allowed, and when it's something that I feel passionate about.

I did the album art to Core of Darkness, which honestly is one of my favorite songs and I can't tell if I'm being biased or not because it's my art.

I took the chance to do something new, and I wanted to go above and beyond what quality work that I normally do. I wanted this to be something I could be proud of, and something that would showcase just how good I thought it was!

Solatrus sent me a sample of the unfinished song, which I listened to on repeat the whole time I was working. I ended up doing the whole thing in one sitting, and I just worked on it all night long because I was just. really into it. I wanted to do something really extreme and fun to look at. The angle being. like.. you were in the core, a la the title of the music.

I can't tell you how many times I wanted to just give up and scrap it, because it was hard and something I hadn't done - the perspective, along with the lineless-like style.

But I'm really happy with it even a year later.

The music itself was just. really really great. I loved it not just because I worked on it, which was a great plus, but all the art, all of it, was really great. The music was awesome, and I loved the whole thing behind it. Using the kids' instruments and styles to create the music for each kingdom. And just??? It seemed really fitting, what with how much I like the carapace and all.

It was really an honor to work on it, and I still listen to the album every now and again, even a year later. I'm really proud of everyone who worked on it and thankful for the album and the art.

Solatrus:

Aw, thanks Shad! I really appreciate that you enjoy the album so much.

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