8 Nov 2013, 10:42pm
music Personal Warren's music

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  • Native Places — A Trio for Flute, ‘cello, and piano

    I began composing this trio in Pune in 1988, and worked on it more or less steadily for about eleven months, with time taken out to work on a piano solo piece which has never yet been performed. “Native Places” references many raga motions and uses different governing structures in each movement. The score was dedicated to my composition teacher Karl Boyle.

    “Native Places” refers to a commonly heard phrase in Indian English. One’s “Native Place” is the ancestral home — most probably not where one is living now, but the spot from which one’s history grows. My friends and colleagues often said things like, “I am going to my native place,” or “My native place is not Pune, but a small village close to Nagpur.”

    This phrase evoked in me the notion of multiple points of “home,” which led to scale shifting, tonic modulations, and other ways of ambiguating the influence of the drone.

    The piece has been performed only once, on December 3, 1993, at Cambridge’s First Congregational Church, in a concert of “New Ensemble Music,” with Matt Samolis on flute, Caroline Dillon on ‘cello, and Jin Ohtsubo on piano.

    The first movement begins with a Bairagi-type “alap” which gradually introduces tones outside the raag, eventually shifting to a Saraswati-type lydian framework, then modulating up a tritone. Bla bla bla.

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    The Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix

    My composition/re-arrangement of several pieces & textures associated with Jimi Hendrix, reconceived as a solo vehicle for Melanie Howell Brooks’ bass clarinet virtuosity.

    Bob Pilkington’s arrangement of “If Six Was Nine” features me singing & vocalizing as a sort of long coda.

    Antigravity: Boogie For Hanuman

    The second Antigravity CD, “Boogie For Hanuman,” was recorded during our year in India in 1994. Caroline Dillon added her ‘cello on some of the tracks. Finding Nikhil Sohoni as our drummer was an extraordinary piece of luck; he threw himself into learning the material with incredible focus. Ensemble morale was very high throughout…and because I’d taken the precaution of loading my suitcases with 1/2″ 8-track AMPEX tape, I was able to bring back the recordings and mix them later (which didn’t stop me from screwing up the mix as it went on the CD…not enough bass!).

    Anyway, here are the pieces…hope you enjoy them. We loved making this CD.

    Boogie For Hanuman

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    “It’s Taken Me My Whole Life…” — The Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra

    Around 2006 I began thinking about rests.

    I forget who, when speaking of Thelonious Monk, said, “Monk plays rests,” but the quote struck me vividly. Miles plays rests, too. So does Kumar Gandharva in a totally different idiom.

    How could I compose a piece of music in which the improvisational element inhered in the act of not playing something, or, more accurately, playing a silence. How could I minimize the creativity involved in note choice and melodic sequence, and maximize the creativity involved in leaving spaces?

    The process of composition involved many false starts; lots of scribbled notes, lots of discarded pages.

    Eventually I settled on the approach used in “It’s Taken Me My Whole Life…”, which employs three separate levels at which musical omissions are available to improvisors.

    At the lowest (background) level, participating players are assigned a pulse speed (8th note; quarter-note; dotted-quarter; half-note) and a small pitch set. Each player receives a different number (n); their assignment is to make a simple repeated pattern of n notes from the pitches in the set. They’re also given a second number which designates the number of notes which they can choose to replace with silences over the course of many iterations.

    For example:

    46733 46733 46733 467_3 4__3_ 46733 4____ _6_3_ 4_7_3 _6733 etc.

    At the second (middle-ground) level, participating players are assigned a “mantra,” which is a simple cantus-type melody written in whole notes. The melody is derived from the Hindustani raga Bhairav, but the interval structures could be changed easily without affecting any other aspect of the piece. Each player involved in the “mantra” is also given a number representing the number of notes which they can choose to omit in repetitions of the line. A group of melodic players presenting the “mantra” would probably omit different notes, creating a dispersed “collective” version of the melody.

    At the top (solo) level, the improvising soloists have their melodic lines completely written out: these notes in this sequence. They are instructed to play through what is essentially a modally-organized tone row while focusing on the number and length of silences to be inserted.

    At this 2012 concert, Luther Gray and Ryan Edwards (drums & percussion respectively) took the closing portion of the piece and stretched out with a beautifully evocative duet.


    31 Oct 2013, 10:11am
    music Personal Warren's music

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  • The Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra: Elegies and Recollections – In Memory of Dorothy Carter

    In 2003 I received the news that my dear friend and early musical mentor Dorothy Carter had died. Almost immediately afterwards I was inspired to compose this long piece for jazz orchestra, which was eventually released on the JCAO’s “Celebration of the Spirit” CD on CIMP records.

    Here is a 2005 concert version.

    Dorothy’s music was ethereal and delicate, evoking mythical and ancient resonances. She taught me a lot about the integration of folk music into contemporary composition.

    Mundai Malhar: Trombone Quartet

    This piece was composed in India in 1987, and eventually premiered at a “New Ensemble Music” concert in 1990. The performers: Bob Pilkington, Jim Messbauer, and Andy Knepley on trombones; Leslie Havens on bass trombone.

    It uses melodic motifs drawn from the Hindustani raga Mian Malhar, but morphs them into insolent squawking from the trombones. “Mundai” is the principal vegetable market in Pune, and a source of inspirational chaos for many of my “urban” compositions.

    I dedicated this piece to my dear friend Tilmann Waldraff.

    Dadar Concert, August 13, 2013

    Ragas Purvi, Nayaki Kanada, Khamaj (Tappa-ang thumri), and a Sindhi lok-geet — all performed in what appeared to be the world’s largest shower stall. With Mukta Raste – tabla, and Ravindra Lomate – harmonium. Thanks to Nandu Dhaneshwar and Neela Bhagwat for arranging this program at Shivaji Park Nagarik Sangh.

    Music videos are below the fold:

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    Toronto Concert, July 20, 2013

    Toronto, June 20, 2013. Ragas Kamod, Nayaki Kanada, Pahadi, Bhairavi. With Ravi Naimpally on tabla and Raya Bidaye on harmonium, performing under the auspices of Toronto’s Raga Mala society.

    Music videos below the fold:

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    Pune Concert, August 11, 2013

    A mehfil at a private residence in Pune, with Chaitanya Kunte on harmonium and Milind Pote on tabla. A dream team of accompanists, and made more special by the presence in the audience of Rajeev, Medha, and Eeshan Devasthali. A lovely evening.

    Here are ragas Chhayanat, Bihagada, Jayant Kanada, Khamaj, Gorakh Kalyan and Bhairavi. There are some other short items which I haven’t posted yet.

    Music videos below the fold:

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    Music at home…

    …Daughter and I have exchanges about music theory. She calls them “wacky questions,” and enjoys it when I give her puzzles about harmonic relationships. “If A is ONE, then what is the TWO chord? The FIVE chord?” “Spell a G major triad.” Etc., etc.

    Recently we began moving into questions about harmonic sequences. “In the key of C, what is a I-IV-VI-V-I progression?”

    She’s seven. I don’t have any huge expectations about this; it’s just a fun game we play. This is way out of her league.

    Or is it?

    At tonight’s guitar practice I was coaching her into a D-minor chord (the standard one at the bottom of the neck). She started playing a sequence, not too adroitly…and when I tried to steer her in the direction of something I had planned, she said, “Stop! I want to play my own progression!”

    Then she dictated: “D minor, A minor, C, A minor, D major, G, A major, D.”

    I did a little on-the-spot voice-leading to make two harmony parts and we sang through them. Cool. My daughter’s composing her own chord patterns.

    Then she told me to “write it down, so we don’t forget it.”

    I think it’s time to show her more about notation.