Born in the Desert

In continued celebration of the release of Post & Beam, I’m posting the score for Born in the Desert.

Download the score as a pdf file: born_in_the_desert.pdf
Download the score as a LilyPond .ly file:

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.
  • I posted an earlier version of this score last summer. This one is the more correctest.

Connecting Connections

I’m a long-time reader of Kyle Gann’s Postclassic, so a bit surprised that I don’t point more often to  the gems he posts. I couldn’t pass up his latest entry, though, since it pulls together so many figures of contemporary music and finds connections between them. Case in point is this quote about James Tenney:

Someday there will be a book on James Tenney, who studied with Varese, befriended Ruggles, argued with Partch, made psychedelic eletcronic music with Mort Subotnick, played in the ensembles of Steve Reich and Phil Glass, taught alongside Harold Budd, and taught Peter Garland, Larry Polansky, John Luther Adams, and Michael Byron, among many others. Tenney is a line wandering through American musical history, drawing a variety of unexpected connections. The people most central to American music, those who can’t be pulled out of the fabric without it unraveling, are not always the household names.

I can’t wait for that book on James Tenney; if we’re lucky Kyle will write it. Speaking of Kyle’s writings, he’s currently working on a book about Robert Ashley–another one of those wandering lines–who he quotes:

“The only thing that’s interesting to me right now is that, up to me and a couple of other guys, music had always been about the eventfulness: like, when things happened, and if they happened, whether they would be a surprise, or an enjoyment, or something like that… It’s about eventfulness. And I was never interested in eventfulness. I was only interested in sound. I mean, just literally, sound in the Morton Feldman sense…. There’s a quality in music that is outside of time, that is not related to time. And that has always fascinated me… That’s sort of what I’m all about, from the first until the most recent. A lot of people are back into eventfulness. But it’s very boring. Eventfulness is really boring.”

I find Ashley’s ‘eventfulness’ formulation to be useful. I’ve often thought of my music’s tendency toward uneventfulness (here here and here, for example) as related to landscape, particularly landscape painting or photography. My interest in field recordings and soundscapes both grows from that predilection and informs it.