Awarded an International Residency, Musical Scientist Melanie Edwards Travels to Spain to Put Finishing Touches on Her Children’s Book
Last time we caught up with musical scientist Melanie Edwards, she had just come back home to New York from Costa Rica, where she had taken her traveling lab to make her sixth album, “Las Rosas”. Melanie has the habit of trying out new locations with more or less every project, so it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to hear that Melanie had spent the last few weeks in Barcelona working on something new. Edwards, who’s fluent in Spanish and even lived in Spain twelve years ago, was trying out something completely different this time around—she was there to create a children’s book with music to accompany it. Offered an international residency at Can Serrat in El Bruc, Barcelona, Edwards decided to open up her artistic vault and finish something she had started in grad school.
“I wrote and illustrated a children’s book called “The Seed That Made It Big/La Semilla Que Hizo Grande” nearly ten years ago,” says Edwards. “I never published it, just developed the story. I’m always searching for new ways to express myself via writing and music, plus a lot of my fans now have children of their own. So, I felt it would be a step in a new direction which would be both stimulating and challenging towards my usual approach and process.”
After leaving the idea to simmer for over a decade, Edwards decided autumn in Spain would be the perfect time and location to bring out the book’s themes. “I’ve always been curious by the way Spanish culture makes use of the gloom and doom,” she says. “For instance, Goya really knew how to make use of the color black. While Monet pitter-pattered pretty pastels on the page, Goya knew how to use black and make it seductive, albeit grim. You have to appreciate a culture that makes the underbelly and dark side sexy.”
Furthermore, the dark Catalan history seemed to lend itself perfectly to the book’s imagery, especially around Halloween time. “Catalonia has a different vibe than Andalusia, where I lived twelve years ago, and there are a lot of gypsies, witches, and mystical landmarks. The setting also really reinforced my attraction to minor chords; their truth and complexity make the dark magnetic and enticing. That, to me, is Spain in a nutshell.”
During her residency at Can Serrat, Edwards also had the chance to record some of the music she had written for “The Seed That Made It Big”, including a demo for the lovely ballad, “The Circle”—a song she describes as a struggle for identity and an attempt to understand the circular effects that self-appreciation and self-deprecation can have on one’s psyche.
Though “The Seed That Made It Big” is in essence a children’s story, the music was written with the goal to bridge the gap between adults and kids. As for the story itself, Edwards found inspiration in Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”. “It (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) is my favorite story in the world,” says Edwards. “It’s a film, not a children’s book, but it certainly could be. The central character Ofelia struggles to find a ‘new normal’ after being submersed in a world of tragedy, following the Spanish Civil War. The theme combines reality with the fantasy world and centers around a labyrinth and a mysterious faun creature. Ofelia’s stepfather, the evil Captain Vidal continues to murder the innocent farmers around the village, while Ofelia’s pregnant mother becomes sick and eventually dies. Ofelia encounters weird, mythical creatures who help her ‘deal’ with her horrid, abusive reality. This is her ‘art’. I feel similar in that I always felt I could ‘write’ myself out of the real to cope, as she’s drawn into a labyrinth of mythical trials and tribulations. Also, being out in El Bruc, in the village and old farmhouse, I felt exactly like Ofelia.”
Not one to lose any time between her projects, Edwards is already planning her next steps, and so far they look quite interesting. “I’m currently in development conversations with scientists on how to combine my songwriting and live piano performances with electromagnetic feedback sensors. I can’t wait to share more about it, but it’s still simply too early to go into it in detail. I’m just very curious in how to take The Lab towards a more scientific approach in both performance and conception. So far it’s looking very promising.”
Check out Melanie’s main page www.melanieedwardslabs.com for ways to purchase her music and info on upcoming releases.