This will be the premiere performance of my brass quintet, Purple Loosestrife (Satellite). The piece functions as a distributed network of musical gestures. Each musician can influence the behavior of any of the other musicians, while simultaneously being influenced by them. No one person is more “in charge” than another. There’s also no predetermined beginning, middle or ending. I sat in on a rehearsal this weekend and loved how the ensemble was working together. I can’t wait to hear how it comes together for the performance.
Also on the program:
Mark A. Lackey – Three Simple Prayers
Bryan Page – now does our world descend
Monroe Golden – Some Day
Jan Vi?ar – Three Marches for Dr. Kaybl
Wesley Johnson – Bluebrass Kebyar
Ron Wray – Dance Like It Hurts
William Price – Sans Titre VII
Fernando Deddos – Rabecando
Nancy Jensen – Polaris Fanfare
The University of Alabama at Birmingham Brass Quintet consists of Dr. James Zingara and Dr. Steve Roberts, trumpets, Dr. Martin Cochran, euphonium, Jeff Koonce, trombone, and Scott Robertson, tuba.
I’ve recently returned to working on scores with Lilypond thanks to the Elysium IDE for Eclipse. Development on Lilypondtool for JEdit stopped more than a year ago and it definitely cramped my style to go back to a simple text editor. I even resorted to MuseScore for a recent project thinking that my needs were simple enough to be met by the program. (Maybe “resorted to” is too strong a term–I love the idea behind MuseScore, I want to support MuseScore, I want others to support it, too.) And MuseScore mostly pulled-through for me, but working with it made me miss Lilypond even more.
So I searched for a Lilypondtool replacement and found Elysium. The installation with Eclipse was straightforward and Elysium is working well for me. I find Eclipse to be harder to get around in than JEdit. It’s likely a much more powerful application, so one day I may be thankful for the time spent getting it running, but for now it feels like overkill for my needs.
The Austin New Music Co-op celebrates their tenth anniversary with concerts tonight and tomorrow. Details here; Preview articles in the Austinist and Austin 360. I joined the co-op shortly after it began and enjoyed participating in many memorable events while in Austin.
In honor of 10 years of great co-op concerts, here’s a recording from the September 8, 2006 event featuring Fred Lonberg-Holm. This was the premiere of We Would Like to Take This Opportunity, a work for cello soloist with any three string instruments. The performers here are Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello solo; James Alexander, viola; Steve Bernal, cello; Travis Weller, violin.
The cFCFAb tuning is one I came to after trying a more standard minor (fCFAbC) or sawmill (cFCFG) tuning. I use a Pythagorean temperament based on F which doesn’t change the tuning of the C’s and F’s very much, but makes the Ab significantly flatter than an equal-tempered Ab.
The whooshing, windy sound throughout (heard prominently during the intro) is generated by walking on a pair of foot pedals, almost the way you would pump an old pump organ. (You can see this motion in the video.)
While recording, I kept missing the foot pedals and accidentally stepping on a mic stand instead. I decided to embrace the resulting bass drum thumps and include them in the piece.
On Saturday the Location Ensemble will premiere three pieces for multiple electric guitars, bass and drums at Saratoga Arts. 1983 (Jason Cosco) will provide live visuals.
Saturday November 12 @ 8pm Saratoga Arts
Saratoga Springs, NY
Since joining to performing Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Triolast year, the group has been busy–writing and rehearsing new pieces and naming ourselves Location Ensemble. The group includes Tara Fracalossi, Howard Glassman, Eric Hardiman, Ray Hare, Holland Hopson, Thomas Lail, Jason Martin, Patrick Weklar and Matt Weston.
I found this melody in John and Alan Lomax’s Our Singing Country. I worked out the two-finger, thumb lead banjo part to highlight the double drones of the first and fifth string. The vocal style is haunted by the ghost of Roscoe Holcomb.
The electronics part uses an FFT freeze frame technique to create an evolving texture by extending a single frame of audio from the banjo (and sometimes voice). Applying pressure to force sensitive resistors mounted on the head and neck of the banjo changes the amplitude contour of the FFT synthesis, making the resulting sound smoother or spikier.
The banjo break at the beginning comes almost directly from Pete Seeger’s How to Play the 5-String Banjo. I worked out the banjo part in the verse by ear, following the melody and drawing inspiration from Buell Kazee’s recording on the Anthology of American Folk Music.
The electronics part uses multiple looping delays to create a rhythmic texture from the banjo. The timing for each delay line is based on the time between consecutive instances of a given note played by the banjo. One delay line changes every time the computer hears the note g , another changes when the computer hears f, another for b-flat, etc.
The tablature above more accurately represents how I’d play the tune on a fretted banjo. When I play the fretless banjo, as on the recording, I throw in more slides on the 3rd and 4th strings.
I call this banjo tuning the “So What” tuning since it produces the same voicing as the horn chords in the Miles Davis tune “So What”. (Bar all four strings at the second fret. Strum. Release. Strum. Whattya know! Modal jazz and mountain modal banjo tunings…same difference.)
I wrote most of the lyrics while pushing my son around in his stroller, wondering what would be worse: global warming or my first upstate New York winter in ten years.
The electronics part was originally all about a piercing drone that slowly oscillates between a and b-flat. The movement between the pitches is based on the gestures played by the banjo and would sometimes produce amazing microtonal difference tones. Listening back to my recordings I realized how painful the experience could be for the audience. With the encouragement and discerning ears of Troy Pohl I pushed the electronics far into the background.
Each month I’ll post another score for a piece on the album, until I’ve shared them all. The scores will be available as pdf files and as Lilypond files.
The scores are for acoustic, “unplugged” versions of the songs on the album. All the electronic gewgaws and interactive foofaraw have been left out; they wouldn’t make much sense unless you happen to have a sensor-encrusted banjo plugged into an arduino and a laptop. I think these songs are perfectly playable without the electronics, anyway. In fact, most of them existed that way just fine for 100+ years before I got my mitts on them.
Notes on Born in the Desert:
I think I got the four note motive that spans a minor 7th from a Bob Dylan tune.
I wrote most the lyrics while riding my bicycle.
I later tightened up the lyrics and squeezed them into a formal scheme where the second line of each pair of couplets becomes the first line of the following pair of couplets. (I’m sure some sainted English major can tell me the specific poetic form that I took the trouble to reinvent.)
The banjo is played using a two finger, thumb-lead style. Thanks to Vic Rawlings for teaching me the mechanics of this picking style.
There’s an extra bar added to the end of each section. The Carter Family recordings have these kind of extensions sprinkled throughout, but it’s just as likely I picked this up from Olivier Messiaen or Igor Stravinsky or Philip Glass or Joni Mitchell–all of whom I heard long before the Carter Family.