Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Music of 'Connections' pt 1

Photo by John Lewis

Blog 25: The Music of "Connections"


I wanted to just take a second to talk about the music on the record. In the liner notes I talked about the musicians and the music in a general sense, but I thought I'd go into a little more detail in this blog.


'Connections' is the first tune on the album and is based on a rhythm in 11/4(three bars of 3/4 and a bar of 2/4). This rhythmic phrase is used against some sections of good old fashioned 3/4. Another thing worth mentioning is the use the chord F#triad/Cmaj7 or Cmaj7b9#11b13. Some people call this 'the stravinsky chord'. This part of the tune adds some intensity in the middle of the form that is fun to play off of.


The title of this tune(and the album, "Connections") come from the idea that everyone and everything in the universe is linked in some way. I started really thinking about this and the idea of synchronicity after a series of coincidences last spring. This lead me to think a lot about the concept of 'coincidence', 'Chance', and 'Chaos and Order'. I would have a strange 'deja vu' type feeling about a random object, name or idea and then subsequently would be put face to face with that thing days later. I don't believe its possible for anyone to have the ability to see the future, so the only way I could make sense of these ideas was through the concept that everything is connected. The affects of anything, no matter how seemingly trivial or pointless, ripple out and are felt throughout the universe. Everything is Connected, so, in a way: music is math is art is psychology is history is....


Momentum is a modal tune I wrote during a period in which I was trying to write melodies that were played by an ensemble as a whole rather than being stated by any individual instrument. The idea being that the trumpet part is just a portion of the melody and that the real full melody is the combination of everyone's individual parts. So that no one is really playing the melody, but we are all playing parts of it, than you can only hear the whole thing when you step back. The solo form is 4, 8 bar sections, each based on one tonality.


The title of the tune came originally from the tempo. The half-time feel is very difficult to play without rushing or slowing down. I feel this song as a 'slow walk' pace, so the steadiness of the tempo and feel are juxtaposed with the fact that each solo builds intensity. Simply said, this tune is all about keeping the Momentum going. I also called it 'Momentum' to remind myself of the saying "Nothing Succeeds like Success". Its easy to feel the momentum when things are going your way, but we all must stay strong when we have set-backs, and to remember not to let these roadblocks stop us...to keep our momentum


Tabula Rasa is based on two superimposed maj7 chords a half step apart; Dmaj7 and Ebmaj7 or Dmaj7b9b13(with a natural 11). It has a very exotic flavor and a lot of people tell me it reminds them of Middle Eastern music. This seems to be my most popular song when we play it live. Tabula Rasa, means 'clean slate' in latin. I named it this because the solo section really end up being almost atonal over a D pedal note. The tonality mentioned above is a point of departure. I wanted each soloist to have the freedom and a 'clean slate' to create something new based on just that one note; D.



Vista is a fun upbeat tune based off a phrase in 15/4(a bar of 7/4 and a bar of 8/4). These bars break down in terms of beats to (3+4 and 3+5). The bridge of the tune is in regular 4/4 time. The trumpet and sax solo together over the 15/4 section and the piano solos over same chord progression as the bridge. Even though this tune is a bit complicated as far as the time signature, it reminds me of a Horace Silver-type tune, because of the horn harmonies and especially because of the bridge. I listened to a lot of Horace Silver when I was in high school and am also a huge Dave Holland fan, so I think of this tune as a meeting point between those two styles.


The definition of Vista is "a distant view...especially one seen through an opening" and "an Awareness of a range of time, events or subjects; a broad mental view". This relates to the ideas discussed above regarding 'Connections'. I named the tune this because I am the kind of person who is always thinking about the future and different possibilities. I like to know all the factors and then try to predict events and what will happen. I think one reason I love jazz and writing tunes, is that the tunes are all little games in a way and the fun part is seeing how the songs will play out. Knowing the people(the musicians' musical personalities), and the game(the song) and then seeing what that unpredictable factory is that makes the songs turn out different every time we play them. (Those of you who are reading and know about Myers-Briggs personality theory, I'm an INTJ, so this all makes perfect sense :)


Improvised music at its best is a wonderful surprise.



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