Rodney Oakes teaches electronic music and directs the PACE (Project for Accelerated Education) at Los Angeles Harbor College. He has won numerous awards including a Rockefeller Grant; an NEA grant; a Fulbright Senior Lectureship to the Academy of Music in Krakow, Poland; and ASCAP Standard Awards for every year since 1987. Oakes was the founding editor of Journal SEAMUS, the official journal of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States. As a trombonist, Oakes has pioneered the use of the trombone combined with electronic devices. He has performed throughout the United States and Europe, and has presented solo concerts in Moscow; Warsaw and Cracow, Poland; Ghent, Belgium; Lake Como, Italy; Lyon, France; and throughout Hungary. Oakes performs his original compositions for MIDI trombone and electronics throughout the world. In addition, he performs with numerous Los Angeles jazz ensembles. A number of Oakes’ works are available on the Cambria, the Living Music, and innova labels.
MIDI Trombone - The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) Trombone uses a trombone as a controller of synthesizers or other MIDI hardware or software with a Pitch-To MIDI converter. The resultant sound consists of the acoustic trombone combined with the synthesizers.
1 - Fantasy II For Buccina (1996) is a short work that explores timbre. The buccina is a Roman instrument considered to be the ancestor to the trombone. My first Fantasy for Buccina was composed in 1979. This second fantasy follows a similar path but relies more heavily on the use of electronics than the earlier version.
2 - Three Bellagio Meditations (1997) was composed for the sixtieth birthday concert of composer Elliott Schwartz at the California State University at Dominguez Hills. The work honors Schwartz’s two residencies at the Rockefeller Study Center at Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy. The three short movements are: 1. Prelude, 2. Ballad, and 3. Bellagio Blues.
3 - New Cracow (Nowy Krakow) (1992) - During the 1991-92 academic year, I was a Senior Fulbright Lecturer at the Cracow Academy of Music teaching computers and music. I enjoyed both my work and my everyday life in this ancient city, and I was able to live here during an exciting time of change. Life in Poland was both fascinating and confusing. Cracow is an especially beautiful city that changed little in the past six to eight hundred years. It is a city that is not well known to Americans. It is also a city that is rich in Polish history and culture.
I composed Nowy Krakow as a model for my students at the Academy of Music. Although there is a programmatic title, it is really absolute music. My main concern was to develop melodic and timbral material in a way that would be aesthetically interesting.
4 - Soliloquy (1997), composed for MIDI trombone, MIDI Alp Horn, and electronics, consists of one musician, two instruments, a computer, and a synthesizer working together to create an internal musical dialogue. The modal thematic and harmonic material provide a background for extended trombone improvised solos. The Alp Horn is a nine-foot folk instrument from the Polish mountains, not the Alps, and essentially plays one note, e. The trombone and the Alp Horn, with the aid of a contact microphone and a pitch-to-MIDI converter, control the software program, which in turn controls the synthesizer.
5 - Erotic Rhapsody (1992) is program work based upon an adult fable. The musical gestures graphically describe a meeting of political figures and television evangelists. The fictional characters are well known public figures, but their identity and behavior stem from my imagination and bear no resemblance to any living persons.
My fictitious group of characters is extremely homophobic and strongly opposed to any kind of government support of the arts, especially any art that does not conform to traditional American values. The group agreed upon a clandestine meeting to plan a course of action that would somehow get America back on the right track. To understand better the growing decline of American moral values, the group viewed art that had created problems for the National Endowment of the Arts. As the group became increasingly involved with the decadence, they discovered deep within them unhealthy stirrings (confirming their own view that dirty art can influence behavior). Under the spell of this banned art, the group succumbs to their basic drives and the meeting ends in an orgy!
The behavior will be shocking to some listeners. Under the influence of the banned art, the group engages in sexual practices that are unknown to most God-fearing Americans. Each of these practices is described graphically through musical gestures. After the orgy reaches its frenzied climax, the piece ends with a reference to a well known religious work. The purpose of this reference is to give the performer, the listeners, and the characters the opportunity to reflect on American political and religious values.
This piece was created without any support from any governmental agency or private foundation, and is dedicated to the participants of the 1992 Republican Convention.
6 - Impromptu (1993) combines a choir of MIDI trombones with an electronic background. This character piece one in a series of short works that explores the unique timbre of multiple trombones controlling synthesizers.
7 - Mazurka for Krysia (2000) is a short work in the spirit of Chopin, if Chopin had composed for the MIDI trombone!. The work is dedicated to my wife.
8 - Variations on a Song of the Buraku Liberation Movement (Song of Liberation (1991 ) Buraku is a Japanese term used to describe a community (geographical neighborhood) comprised of people who are discriminated against. The Burakumini (people of a small village) live in isolated communities, segregated from other Japanese by the boundaries of poverty and prejudice. The Burakumini are descendants of those people who worked as tanners, or were somehow involved with the killing of animals.
There is a movement to gain equal rights. The source of this set of variations is based upon one of the ancient Buraku songs of liberation. This work is dedicated to the eradication of prejudice everywhere.
Specifically, this work is dedicated to Dr. Lesley Clear who spent a year in Japan gathering data for her magnificent research, Education for Social Change: The Case of Japan's Buraku Liberation Movement (UCLA, 1991, PhD dissertation).
9 - Threnody For the Victims of My Lai (1999) - On March 16, 1968, the American soldiers in Charlie Company systematically killed 583 Vietnamese men, women, and children. This kind of behavior happens in war when adults send armed children, indoctrinated to kill, off to pretend to be warriors. Every war has its My Lai. Every war has many My Lais.
As the world continues to witness armed conflicts, it is important to remember My Lai. When political and military leaders inform their television viewing audiences about their latest military accomplishments, we must remember My Lai. Well intended young men can and are trained to participate in My Lai.
Musically, Threnody utilizes a number of techniques, but it is obviously heavily jazz influenced. The MIDI trombone improvises around the stated melody.
Executive Producer, Graphic Design: Philip Blackburn
Also by Rod Oakes (with Igor) on innova:
OG O GO: Live in Your Bedroom (innova 521)