TELERGY: Delicate Balance

Robert McClung

Over the past six years, composer Robert McClung released three studio albums with his project Telergy, and he has worked with names that helped in defining progressive rock and metal scene over the years. His latest Telergy offering is an album titled “Hypatia” which tells the story of Hypatia, a Greek mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. McClung has once again gathered a team of contributors that helped him in shaping the album.

About this and more, Prog Sphere talked with Robert.

Your newest album is titled “Hypatia.” What can you tell me about the creative process that informed the record?

The hardest part of any Telergy record is forming the basic story line concept. Once I decided to do the story of Hypatia I had some help from Professor Michael A.B. Deakin, the preeminent biographer on Hypatia. We put together what aspects of Hypatia’s story would translate well to musical pieces. Then I began writing.

Telergy - HypatiaOnce again, you managed to gather an impressive line-up of musicians who contributed to “Hypatia.” How hard was it for you to put this all together?

It’s always a monumental challenge. Certain players may not always be available due to their own recording or touring schedules. It is sometimes many months before I get tracks from some artists. The biggest key is patience. I just keep myself occupied with other aspects of the production until everyone can get their parts done.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

I write and mock up all the parts in a computer using samples. Then I send out mixes, sheet music and scripts to each person involved. Local orchestral musicians come to my studio to record their parts. People who live far away record their parts in their own home studios or in studios near them, then mail files back to me. It’s like playing musical Legos.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

A combination of audio files and sheet music.

How long “Hypatia” was in the making?

Two years. I started working on it shortly after the release of “The Legend of Goody Cole“. It was finished almost two years to the day.

Tell me about the themes the album captures.

Hypatia of Alexandria was an important mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and teacher from ancient times who was brutally murdered in 415 AD by extremists. The album explores the various aspects of her life, her work, and her sad ending.

Where does “Hypatia” stand compared to your earlier works “The Exodus” and “The Legend of Goody Cole”?

It’s similar in it’s overall style, a combination of orchestral music and heavy progressive rock. But I was able to integrate some very interesting bits of jazz and electronica this time around. I always try to write what is best for each story, which can sometimes lead be down some unique musical paths.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when working on the album?

Communication! When working with lots of artists from all over the world simultaneously, it can be rough to communicate what you want and how it will all fit together. Only I know how it will sound in the end. And that sound is in my head. Each individual player only hears their specific part.

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

I’m always discovering new things. I think I’m getting closer to effectively utilizing the dynamics of the orchestra against the bombasity of the rock instruments. It’s a delicate balance. But I think I’m getting closer to the middle.

Do you see Telergy’s music as serving a purpose beyond music?

I could totally see it being the basis for movie soundtracks. I certainly think it fits that genre.

Tell us something about your musical beginnings.

My Grandfather was a country western guitarist and singer. He gave me my first guitar. I got my professional start playing in theater pit orchestras and writing music for children’s theater productions. Then I spent a good number of years recording and touring with a wide variety of bands from many genres. Kinda made me a jack of all trades.

Where do you draw the inspiration from and how do you go about channeling it into writing?

Musically, my inspiration comes from progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush, Kansas, Jethro Tull, Savatage, Nightwish, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kamelot, King’s X, Spock’s Beard and many more. As well as all of the great classical composers and Broadway theater music. I feel so honored to be working with musicians from the bands that inspired me to do what I do in the first place.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

I watch allot of History Channel! [laughs] Lot’s of historical based movies and books. I’m always searching for a great story.

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

If you are getting into music to be rich and famous, quit now!!! the chances of you achieving those things is painfully slim, no matter how good you are. You should be making music because you have a burning need to create and express yourself, whether anyone else ever hears it or not. If you are like that, then just keep doing it and don’t let anyone stop you. So many things will stand in your way and sometimes you may have to make hard decisions as to what is more important, your music, or something else. If you’re not willing to give up everything to make the music that is burning in your soul, give it up and take up something else. It’s all or nothing!

What are your plans for the future?

I just blasted out three mammoth Telergy albums in six years. I need to take a short break to do some other things. I want to write some straight up orchestral music and classical style chamber music. While doing that I’ll be searching for the next Telergy story. Once I have decided what that will be I’ll begin firing up the Telergy machine and do it all over again.

Follow Telergy on Facebook, and visit their website.

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