Electrical Music

Some time ago I adjoined my name to be included on the Cds and DVDs taken aboard the planet Mars exploration rover by NASA where they now reside on the surface of the planet Mars at Gusev Crater and at Meridiani Planum, this was an action I consider a work of electrical music.

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Erik Satie Vexations and the never played Coda

Vexations by Erik Satie was first performed by John Cage as a marathon event. Subsequent realizations of this score have often followed the interpretation as given by John Cage and his group of performers.

One of the more iconoclastic properties of this three measure score is the occurrence of no less than three “codas” which appear to often be ignored, resulting in a cyclic and sequential repetition of the material. I have also realized the score this way in a recent recording. But the more I think about the formal properties of Vexations, the more I think that his use of the coda can be followed to provide a movement from coda to coda instead of just sequential renderings. The result of such an interpretation would be radically different in the traditional approach as it has been for the last few decades. More interesting is to see if a coda to coda based interpretation would be significantly different in it’s psycho-acoustic effect on the performer and listener.

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Free Smooth Jazz Music

Smooth jazz is loved by or hated by jazz fans. Love it or hate it it’s here to stay as a viable expression of jazz. Maybe the Kenny G saxophone started it, maybe not. At any rate, free jazz from the 1960′s with the likes of John Coltrane is distant from the sounds of smooth jazz. With Sonare 18 a I decided to combine free jazz and smooth jazz to create “smooth free jazz”. With the piano playing of Jeremy Kurn and the drum samples of Notions J Groove, I experimented in getting a sound that’s free and smoother. After listening to the material, I’ve decided on a few rules, all jazz has rules especially the rules of free jazz.

1: The drummer needs to lay down a clean groove and vary it. The wild hedonistic drumming of 60′s free jazz isn’t allowable in smooth free jazz. And the kit needs to be quiet, loud drums aren’t smooth enough.

2: Not too many instruments. We prefer a trio consisting of electric archtop guitar, drums, and another traditional jazz instrument. I chose guitar as one of the instruments from practical reasons; I happen to play guitar.

3: No notional charts. This is improvised music. Verbal descriptions of the sound are fine, tempos and feels for the drummer to explore are good but the minimal approach is best, we want to keep it free.. Any directions should be thrown in the trash after a performance since codifying on paper leads to diminished improvisation.

4: We’re trying to avoid altered chords in solos, chordal comps, and and this isn’t one key music. We try to stretch the harmonic content through the use of major and minor chords. 7th chord are the extent of harmonic additions. A couple of things about this. This isn’t modal music at any level, this isn’t about harmonization of the scales to acquire chords.

5: Extended improvisation is out. 6 or 7 minutes maximum if things are gelling, then move on to the next groove.

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Fretless Takemine Acoustic Guitar

Back in the mid 1980′s I pulled the frets out of this Takemine acoustic guitar and recorded a few tunes with it. However, I wasn’t really satisfied with the resulting sound of a fretless acoustic. Unless it’s bowed in some manner, there is too much drop in sustain. The most reasonable thing to do was to re install the first few frets completely, frets for the E – B- G strings up the neck, and leave the frets off along the upper reaches of the D – A – E  in order to allow more of a fretless bass sound in conjunction with the more conventional melodic strings and thereby create a partially fretted guitar. This allows the player to play all the open chord forms, conventional sounding lead lines and fretless bass accompaniments. After experimenting with this disposition of fretting, it seems that the guitar could be used to better advantage if a fourth complete fret is added to allow an additional full barred major chord for example. The guitar has been long disassembled and is currently about to be re fretted in the traditional manner as it came from the manufacturer. I do recommend the instrument as it is pictured here as it creates a rich sonority and palette.

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Charles Ives and the self editing dilema.

I like to think I understand Charles Ives a little better as I go through my older manuscripts and engage in some self editing. Some thoughts. Preparing a final version of some of the works feels like too much micro management. Letting someone else bring their perspective and allowing decision making on some of the more possible variants can be illuminating and surprising for a composer. At times the reason for composing in possibilities is to allow unending growth over time for the piece. It is a reflection of the natural world in that one influence can cause a person to take a different path along the way of the piece. And why compose the uncertainty in the first place when a composer sees multiple pathways and possibilities? To allow it to grow under the horticultural experience of an editor, conductor, performer, or even a listener. There are always finalized versions of anything, but not everything is so final as an individual would like. Who can say their life was controlled down to the detail? Not me, not everything has gone as I would have preferred. It seems that things go as the sub conscience wills it more than the conscience. The conscience can control the big picture of the moment but micro managing the details is an illusion of the ego. To be free of the ego, at least in some degree, is the composition, as a work of art, performing a purpose to reflect the quiet, noisy, orderly, seemingly chaotic realities that we have not the absolute desire inside of us to create. And besides, with some works being so old, and as a person matures beyond youth, why destroy the memory of youth by editing it out? One cannot regain an old perspective. I suppose that’s why some composers destroy early works; so that no memory can remain. But like a picture of bad fashion senses, at the time it was the greatest fashions sense and may provide some entertainment to future generations and probably not with the composers original intended audience reaction. But does it matter what the future thinks? Not really, only that they think something. Composers would normally like to think that it will be understood in its original intent, but that can’t be guaranteed. For example, no one usually walks down the street in a toga today except for the apparent comedy it, but in the classical mind of the Greeks it must have been elegant and rational attire , today we might strike them as dressing absurdly. Every generation will think they have the idea; like the early 20th Century romantics desire to play Beethoven with huge orchestras and pianos that have no relation to a performance in  Mr. B’s time, our contemporary music world has it’s own idea. I have my own idea, so some works will be best published in autograph form, with all the arrows, crossing outs, side note comments, and a maybe a transformational theory  or two as possibilities. In the end, this is the rigid form of the piece and it remains for others to think about it and do with it as they think best as a reflection of themselves – not me. Composers hand others the torch – to carry, to extinguish, or just burn themselves up.

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Work No. 19, Song No. 5 added.

Scored for SSATT and piano, this is a short 3 page polytonal piece from around 1982 in the collection of Work No. 19. Performance materials are available for download on the Mixed Works page.

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Movement for Strings

Movement for Strings from 2010 has been added to the Audio page and the full score to the String Works Page.

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Preparing Source Sets for Theatre Pieces Book 1 for upload.

As I scan this manuscript from a couple of decades ago in preparation for uploading to the Writings and Sources page, I thought I might as well do a clear copies of the 21 theatre pieces and place them on the Theater Works page. Book 2 is up and I’ve started uploading the incidental electrical music which is Book 3. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at this material myself; I probably don’t write too much like this anymore..

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Nighthawks at Dusk from Work no. 19 for a large orchestra.

Song no. 11  (Nighthawks at Dusk), from Work no. 19; is a polytonal composition for large orchestra, this full score can be downloaded as a pdf file. Scored for flutes, oboes, clarinets, bass clarinets, bassoons, contra bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, anvil and hammer, horseshoe and steel stake, snare drum, bass drum, church bells, piano, harp, violins, violas, cellos, and basses. The durations is 1′ 20″ which is about as long as a nighthawk stays in the area. There is a realization on the recordings page.

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A piano concerto with turntables and other electrical object circa 1985.

Piano Concerto, Work no.74 -Duration: 24′ 00″ is a .zip file of the recorded accompaniment part only available from the Writings and Sources page. Originally created in 1985, this is for solo pianist and orchestra of an unconventional make up. This, along with Ode To Sammy Davis jr. were released in the mid 1980′s under the title “Art Damage for Orchestra”. The concerto was for an orchestra comprised of turntables, radios, black & white televisions, desk, external microphones, noise generator, kitchen utensils, small Chinese bell, toy organ, and harmonica. Given the fact that there was a great deal of difficulty in gathering an orchestra of these instruments, the entire orchestra was rendered to tape and set in this rendering in 1985.

The pianist has no score for a performance and there are silent sections that may be performed in or not. In fact, what the pianist does during the performance has not been specified. In the original released recorded version I performed on the piano, but if the pianist has something better to do, that’s fine also. It is after all composed for the theatre pieces book 3. This particular piece was Creative Commons licensed in 1985, before creative commons was so common.

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