Five By Six
This piece began back in 1978 with a short 10 step sequence played on my ARP 1601 analog step sequencer, controlling my ARP2600. The grouping of 3+3+4 creates an interesting rhythmic and melodic ostinato, that then is supported by a funky bass line in 5/4. I built a quasi blues progression around it with the I chord going to the IV chord and back with an interesting twist at the end of the phrase. The big band arrangement of the melody is new (as are all the sounds and treatment of the original themes) and performed by Logic Pro’s Studio Horn section, augmented by Bruce Nifong playing the leads. This piece is a good example of the interplay I love to explore between machine time and human time as it pushes and pulls the listener between the elements. For a more thorough explanation of this concept, check out my interview with Jonathan Wyner for his podcast “Headroom.” The video for this was created using Luminant Music #luminantmusic.
This was originally written to feature my good friend, fellow Ictus bandmate and sometimes room mate Ray Frisby on the Vibes. This was during the time we were a septet with 2 drummers (then Dave Weigert and Ray), and I wanted to give Ray (X-Ray) a chance to step in front of the band with a feature for him on vibraphones. Then we pared down to being a sextet, with just one drummer, and I took the Vibes role on synths, and we re-named it the Ex X-Ray Fusion. Here it is reimagined with me playing all the instruments except for Bruce Nifong on Soprano Saxophone.
I originally wrote this as a big band chart for Mike Gibbs’ Berklee band, which I co-led for him. Here it is re-imagined as a vehicle for Bruce Nifong’s lovely Alto Saxophone solo. All the parts are the same, just re-orchestrated and re-arranged for Bruce. This was inspired by the minimalist music of Terry Riley and Steve Reich – and here is as a 15 bar chaconne (repetitive harmonic phrase) with a variety of one and two measure ostinatos that can come and go as the players choose, all leading to a climax of a 4 bar ‘B’ repeated section.
I was cleaning the shelves in my home library and came across my student portfolio of compositions submitted in 1976 for my composition degree at Berklee College of Music. I came upon the senior project, a full three-movement piano sonata, entitled “Homage.” I had spent countless hours on that piece, really working through some of the artistic and musical issues that had been part of my undergraduate learning. The three movements were homages to major influences during that time, the first to Olivier Messiaen – whose music really intrigued me, and I began studying his work, reading his books, and then found out my roommate’s grandfather was his publisher in France, Henri Elkan. So I got his scores and studied them. Then Messiaen came to Boston to rehearse with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra as they prepared tp record the Turangalila Symphony. The rehearsals were open to music students and then Messiaen held small master classes for composition students and I was able to attend those for a week.
Movement 2 was dedicated to my art studio prof at Oakland University Larry Rittenberg. Larry opened my eyes to contemporary visual art, and helped me understand non-representational work – and that later affected my approach to composing music. And the third movement was for Leo Brouwer, a fantastic modern classical guitarist from Cuba. I had been a fan of his composition and playing while a classical guitar student and was fortunate to be able to study with him in Toronto at a guitar festival where he’d been commissioned to write a piece for guitar orchestra. As I was taking his master class, I was invited to perform in the world premier of his piece. That week of study opened my mind to new sounds from the guitar, and new ways of notating music to influence the player’s interpretation.
Anyway, I had never heard my sonata performed, so I decided to enter it into the music notation app Notion, which can give a musical performance based on interpreting all the musical symbols. Notion was conceived of by my friend and colleague Jack Jarrett while he was chair of Berklee’s composition department. Anyway, I entered it all in and it performed it for me, and I was thrilled with what I heard – it sounded even better than I imagined!
So this piece is a recomposition – I took motives, pieces of development, themes, and some of the formal concepts and reworked them into this new composition called “New Homage.” The first section came from the second movement, Homage to Rittenberg and leads to a jazzy section in 7/8 with all new writing based on Messiaen’s Modes of Limited Transposition. The transition section from the guitar solo until the third section in 9/16 is all material from the first movement, Homage to Messiaen, and the 9/16 section through until the end of the sax solo is from the third movement Homage to Brouwer. The ending uses materials from all three original movements to come to the final cadence. Enjoy! And the video was created using Luminant Music #luminantmusic
This was originally written for Herb Pomeroy’s Jazz Orchestra recording band for the 1976 “Jazz in the Classroom” album, for which he recorded two of my pieces (not this one), but which was finally never released. This is a short movement built around a couple of really interesting musical ideas that came to me from the universe, and I had to put them into a piece – and here it is, again reconciled as a solo vehicle for Bruce Nifong, and completely re-orchestrated for acoustic and electronic instruments.
This was originally a tune I wrote for Ictus, and which we performed quite a bit but never recorded. As I was discussing ideas for this album with Bruce, he suggested this tune, which had always been a favorite of his. So I decided to reconceive the fell, orchestration, and arrangement; first to make it more electronic, and having Bruce play EWI on the first melody, and then to transition into a more traditional jazz form with open solos from Bruce and me on guitar/synth and then back to the electronic feel through the guitar solo nd into the last statement of the melody.
Another tune I wrote for Ictus, but which was only played for a few months, and never recorded. At that time I was writing more and more tunes that were more interesting rhythmically, harmonically, melodically, formally, and orchestration ally as I got deep into the synthesizers. So this tune just fell out of the repertoire. And when discussing this album, Bruce reminded me of it (and quite a few others that had likewise fallen out of the book) and so I decided to resurrect it from the ashes of Ictus tunes. Enjoy!
One of Two
Another tune that was inspired by the ARP 1601 sequencer and that grew into one of Ictus’ more popular tunes. Although a recording was made just before Ictus split up in 1983, it was never released. This is the exact arrangement of that piece as recorded, but with all the parts played by me, and featuring Bruce again on Alto. A fitting tune to close this album, and that phase of my writing. All this mashination… And I just can’t get enough plays on my last name. 😉