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“We were all feeling like we needed the chance to stretch out. Everything we were doing was kind of concise, and every so often one of us would say, ‘We really need to go crazy.’ So we decided to get wild and wacky and do a real epic.
“John Petrucci had been playing with a beautiful theme, which was originally slated for another song, but again we took it and moved it to its own special place. We worked on it together and refined it, and it started to feel really majestic. The whole thing started to grow.
“This is a great example of what Mike Mangini brings to us, which is this extreme rhythmic brain that can conceptualize very interesting ideas for rhythms that can go together. Like, ‘If you play 10 bars of seven and you play four bars of five, it’s going to sound really cool.’ We would make notes and put these things together. That gave me a nice chance to pull out some music paper and write counterpoint stuff. I have these almost Bach/Gentle Giant things in there, and that was a lot of fun to work on.
“There a whole middle section that features a lot of ambient electronic sounds. It’s spread out and very relaxed, and it slides into a string ensemble part – just strings, like they’re out of a little movie. The soundscape is something that John Petrucci and I organized. We were together in front of my computer, but I would be playing and finding sounds, vibing out. I was running my own sequencer. It was great, the two of us feeling it out and creating this experience.
“The string part was one of those funny times in Dream Theater where John will say to me, ‘Jordan, play the saddest, most beautiful melody you can.’ [Laughs] And I’ll go, ‘All right, I’ll try.’ I’ll called up a sound and improvised, and he said, ‘That’s it! That’s perfect.’ I modified it a little bit, and then we sent it to Eren, who fleshed it out for real strings. They came in and recorded it, and it turned out great. It’s so beautiful.
“And there’s the last little bit, this nice vibey thing I did at home. I was playing it, these three chords, and I loved it. I didn’t know what the guys would think, but I played it for them, and John Petrucci was like, ‘That’s really cool.’ So we decided that it would be a neat surprise at the end. It’s piano, guitar and Seaboard. It relaxes things after this enormous trip you’ve been on. So if you’re still listening, if you hang in there, that’s how we tag it out.
“As you might expect, the piece was composed in pieces, so we didn’t play it live from beginning to end, even as a scratch track. But we’ll play it in its entirety live – we definitely have some woodshedding ahead of us. It’ll come together methodically. I’ll have my notations, I’ll get my sounds together for each part, but once I work out what I need to do, I’ll be able to play it. It’s a big tune, so there might be some challenges. That’s OK.”