Percussion Quartet beginnings

The Portland Percussion Group has recently commissioned me to write them a percussion quartet, and now that the academic school year is drawing to a close, my brain has started moving some of my initial subconscious thoughts about the piece into more conscious thought.

It happened rather suddenly; for the past couple of weeks i’ve had some vague ideas of how i wanted the piece to start, but that was all in the back of my mind. Then today, at about 00:30, i had to stop by the office to check on some video stuff, and i had my earphones in listening to the Reward Dream part of the Inception App for iPhone, and out of nowhere my brain started churning about the piece. I had to turn the headphones off. As i left the office about twenty minutes later, i got in my car still thinking about all of these different things and i sat in my car for about ten minutes before finally turning on the ignition. The true beginnings of the creative process.

Currently it’s still a jumble in my head that is split into three parts: musical motives – one in particular that has to do with gradually building rhythms that also have to do with timbre; conceptual idea – i see the piece as being about either a journey or a convergence; and instrumentation – how big of a set up do i want it to be, how many melodics vs non-melodics and what are the roles of each.

The original idea that i had in my head that i’ve now somewhat rejected is “Echo Variations”. The piece may actually have a lot of elements that still fit that theme, but somewhere in my thought process tonight, i decided that i needed the piece to be About Something. Out of the three pieces of music that i’ve written since getting back into the fray, two of them, Timpani Forces and Shifting Signals Zero, have some musical analogies to them but are otherwise not really about anything, aren’t meant to tell a story. Honeysuckle Juice does tell a story, but that’s dictated by a poem that wasn’t created by me.

So i feel it’s time to write a piece that’s actually About Something, and for it to be something personal. I’m not quite sure how i’m going to pull that off yet, but we’ll see. It’s time to grab a blank piece of paper and start drawing.

a small essay about me and music.

i have this five-questions meme running on my livejournal at the moment, and one of my friends asked me some pretty in-depth questions that warranted a separate entry. One of those questions asks about the sort of music that i listen to and it seemed appropriate since it talks about some of the bigger influences in my musical life and some of my musical philosophy to post it here instead of livejournal.

Q. Music is a huge part of my life. I have to have headphones on to work or exercise or commute. I aspire to be in a band, but for now I’m a pretty shitty guitar player. I know music is a big part of your life, but I imagine in a different way. Is it mostly about creating, or do you also listen to a lot? Who are your favorite artists? What are your favorite albums?


a crazy musical synchronicity moment.

Very recently i made my third ever iPhone paid app purchase, a “sound augmentation experience” app called Dimensions. It’s made by the same people that made the Inception App, and it’s a similar concept – certain iPhone-detectable conditions activate a “Dimension” (such as “lots of movement”, or “not a lot of noise”, or “it’s raining outside”), and each Dimension takes sound from your current environment and modifies it in some way, usually in conjunction with some preexisting background music and noises to help create more atmosphere.

Last night, i happened to have the app running and the earbuds in while i was working on the computer. I also had VLC player running through some random telly because i typically do that when i’m working on things non-music. And a true random synchronicity moment happened that will never ever happen again out of pure chance. My VLC player had just started another episode of Sherlock, and the opening titles started to run. At the same time, the Dimension that i was in started to play a section involving whole note chords played by a piano. And they both lined up.

I don’t mean just rhythmically either, although that in itself was pretty uncanny since both tempos were similar enough to line up the entire run of the Sherlock opening credits. But both happened to be in the same key, and both happened to move through chord movements that had the same root movement. It was like i was listening to an enhanced version of both, that these independent parts were meant to be interlocked together.

It blew my mind.

At some point when things calm down, i’ll find a way to record the Dimensions music in question and then mash it with the Sherlock theme so you can hear what i’m talking about. The fact that it happened by the rarest of circumstances coming together is one of those special moments. I want to find a way to replicate that in my own art; not sure the best way to do that to maximum effect, because i want it to be non-obvious but still discoverable. We’ll see; an easter egg of that sort of nature is either one of those needs-a-lot-of-careful-planning sorts of things or one of those just-make-it-up-as-you-go-over-a-period-of-years sort of thing. I suspect given the sort of project schedule that i keep and the general schedule that i keep that any application of this will be the latter rather than the former.