8-15-13: The Piano in the Room

8-15-13: The Piano in the Room

Whenever Beethoven would walk into a room and see a piano he would feel this tension, a tension arising from the fact that he had an almost primal sexual urge to play it, but at the same time would resent the fact that he felt the urge to play it. Usually he would resist the urge.

12-1-11: My Country Tentatively

12-1-11: My Country Tentatively

I occasionally take up this tune, even if I don’t really like it. You don’t have to like a tune to improvise on it, after all. It’s enough that the tune focuses your attention in a particular way that may yield interesting results.

 

2-23-09: Three Part Invention (sort of)

2-23-09: Three Part Invention (sort of)

In recent years (if 30 years can be called recent) I’ve been trying to develop a contrapuntal improvisational style. J.S.Bach, who is inarguably the all-time master of counterpoint, is my teacher but I’m not his apprentice: I look to his examples for general technical and aesthetic guidance, but, in the interest of developing my own contrapuntal voice, I go for extended periods without listening to him at all—and I rarely play his music anymore. My challenge has been to figure out how to develop a style of polyphony that:

  • Does use a contemporary musical language;
  • Doesn’t sound too “classical”;
  • Doesn’t sound too symmetrical;
  • Doesn’t sound like I’m trying to sound like Bach;
  • Does sound cool.

That’s three negatives and two positives—a lot to keep track of.

Perhaps I’m getting close (as I write this in late 2012 I’m considerably closer) to achieving my contrapuntal ideal, but it doesn’t really matter because, for some reason, the fact that this flawed little piece came into the world at all makes me very happy. I can, and have, and will do a lot better, but this has a certain magic that can’t be improved upon with mere “betterness”.

 

11-6-08: Daily Improv x3

11-6-08: Daily Improv x3

Well, this one’s better than I thought it would be. There is this tendency among discerning artists, myself included, to view one’s own earlier work with a fair amount of disdain because we think that our present artistic selves can beat the crap out of our older selves. But, at least if I’m not in a bad mood, I actually like a lot of my earlier work, even if it isn’t as flawless as my current work, which isn’t flawless either.

Anyway, this improvisation represents something of my musical thinking at the time.  It starts with a kind of rock chord progression but goes off into something else…very interesting how it develops. I’m tempted to pat myself on the back, and say, “Nice work there mate”, but I’ll no doubt disavow the entire piece tomorrow.

Oh and here’s an alternate take on the same theme:

Actually the first take, using the same theme. I include it to illustrate how the same theme can yield decidedly different results; in this case with a more subdued point of view. I’ve put it second because that’s where it seems to belong.

As I was remixing the tracks, I found this 3rd take (apparently incomplete, because it just stops) on the same basic theme.

This one is quite different; more melancholy,  even resigned, and judging from the abrupt ending, kind of fed up. Perhaps I had simply had enough of the theme. In the way it proceeds, however, along with the subtle change in the melodic motif itself, it seems to be summing the previous two versions, even answering the questions they asked.

And I can now retroactively declare these to be three unintended variations on a theme, though variations may be the wrong word: More like three points of view on the same theme. They were all improvised in a 10-15 minute period, but they feel like they could have come from three different decades: They are a mini-autobiography, covering my 20s, 30s, and 40s respectively. The first one (actually performed second, but so what) has a youthful, upbeat, poppy exuberance,  that seems utterly sure of it’s inevitable success in the world, even if it does ask a few tough questions about what’s to come. The second is jazzier, not exactly downbeat, but also not so confident—it rather sardonically dismisses the questions of the first as being naive. The third has an Ecclesiastes-like wistfulness that knows things won’t work out as planned, that things just happen—it answers the questions by not answering them.