1 9:24 Mergurs Ehd Ffleweh Bq Nsolst (2005)
2 9:47 Aftermath (2006)
3 6:08 Abstraction 1 (1994/2004)
Gabriela Diaz, violin
4 6:45 Abstraction 6 (2005)
Eliot Gattegno, saxophone
5 12:12 Out Of (2006)
Marilyn Nonken, piano
6 1:00 NanoSymph (2005)
7 13:41 Walking Down the Hillside at Cortona, and Seeing its Towers Rise Before Me (2007)
Jacob Barton and Ju Ri Seo, pianos
8 10:12 Abstraction 2 (1994)
Maja Cerar, violin, Shiau-Uen Ding, piano
Mergurs and Abstraction 6 recorded at Ground Control Studio, Brooklyn, NY, by John Bosch. Abstraction 1 was recorded at Caveman Music Studio in Brighton, MA by Kazuo Maekawa. Out Of and Abstraction 2 were recorded at Patrych Studios in Bronx, NY by Joseph Patrych. Towers was recorded at the University of Illinois by Paul Kotheimer. Mastering by Silas Brown at Legacy Studios. Design and texts by Christopher Bailey. Mergurs was mixed in part during a residency at I-Park. John Minor tuned the pianos for Towers. Innova Director: Philip Blackburn, Operations manager: Chris Campbell. Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
Some spiritual/aesthetic/philosophical notes:
Mergurs Ehd Ffleweh Bq Nsolst
One day, some years ago, when I was in cold, cold Minneapolis in the dead of winter, I looked up at the sun shining in the sky. Despite the frigid temperature, yea, even there and then, its brightness seemed all-powerful. I imagined an ecstatic chant, executed before a ritual of self-immolation, by a denizen of the planet Mercury. Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has its hot side, facing the sun, and its cold side, facing away from the sun. The ritual occurs at the end of a life when the being moves from the cold side of Mercury to the hot side, where they are engulfed in the fiery fury.
The words of the chant, and their translation, follow:
Mergurs Ehd F▀eweh Bq Nsolst
bohde kii woon jjaah, nsolst, ah!
morszehee bq manmeh wohpvahg ffohxvahv
nohmorjj nmehvah mergurs bq
naa jjaaaa shtoh, lloh jjaah shtoh
nmeh ngohah, vadir yuuvsloh anm
blanmdanmg nohl jjaar anm
aahss mohlg jjuumm
ohnm jjaah ahpanm yeshahp tchahkeh
woe nwahv yeshahp ngohah
wah jjahtanmg wah suustahnmanmg
wah burkrohchkang bq
wohv jjaaah nwoh
from Mercury, a view of the Sun
so great are you, oh sun!
now, my time has come
as proud citizen of Mercury
to see you, to feel you
let me, in this last act
in your blinding light.
devour my ▀esh
take it deep within you
let it become part
of the all-creating, all-sustaining, all-destroying
being that is you.
Walking Down the Hillside at Cortona, and Seeing its Towers Rise Before Me
A few summers ago, we were in Cortona, Italy. It's a medieval hill-town, the main part of the town being located high up on the hill, where the incline is very steep. There is virtually no area that can be said to be on "flat ground" of any sort. There are lots of stone buildings, tall and short, archways, narrow streets, stairways and alleys. While descending a set of stairs at one point, my gaze slowly ascended to glance at the top of one of the taller towers. This simple motion of ascent-during-descent inspired this composition. In it, aspects of the music ascend (for example, the height of the chords--at the beginning they are simple triads, by the end they are vast 'skyscraper chords'), while other aspects descend (the "bass" of the chords). A given descent will reach a certain point, and then 'reset', beginning a new descent. There are 7 such descents over the course of the piece, each one is more and more involved, and starts, and ends ("sinks") lower than the last.
These works span my entire career, just about, from the earliest works on this disc, Abstractions 1 & 2, composed in 1993-4, to the most recent, Walking Down the Hillside at Cortona, and Seeing its Towers Rise Before Me (2007). My compositional development has been characterized by a number of strands or threads that have converged, diverged and then resynthesized in different combinations over the years for each piece I have written.
"Fragmentation of the Familiar"--where complex, hidden structures are composed out as juxtaposed, spliced and elided familiar fragments of tonality, modality, and other simple core musical notions--is found in the Abstractions and in Out Of. An A Major triad opens Abstraction 1--one of the more obvious examples. The very end of Abstraction 2, and of the album, a plaintive suspended 4th over an E major (added 6th) chord, is a slightly more complex one. In Abstraction 6, I could walk through and point out to you the (or a) "tonal" significance of every single event in the piece--from that point of view it is tonal, but it is a fragmented tonality/modality, laden with detritus, often pulled into tiny shards that make it, at first, difficult to follow, but with familiarity (at least to my ear), very expressive, sometimes in an eerie, unexpected or even exhilarating way.
An interest in microtonality manifests itself in a variety of ways in all works except Abstractions 1 & 2, and possibly Nanosymph (I say "possibly", because there are certainly microtonal intervals in there, but I did not consciously aim for them.) Mergurs is based on a gigantic 12-note C overtone-chord, and Just Intonation scale fragments. Aftermath is built out of a specific Just Intonation scale (1/1 21/20 9/8 7/6 5/4 21/16 11/8 3/2 13/8 5/3 7/4 15/8). Out Of is for piano (in 12-tet) and that same JI scale in the electronic sounds. Abstraction 6 explored what I call "Crystallized Just Intonation" where the leading part (the saxophone) is in 12-tet, and the notes in the electronics are tuned, from moment-to-moment, to 'crystallize' around the saxophone line in Just Intonation harmonies (this is not live, 'adaptive' tuning, but something more pre-meditated--at times I want the music to sound out of tune). Finally Towers is for 2 pianos, tuned to a combined 19 (equal-spaced) tones per octave.
NanoSymph is a response, if you will, to Sebastian Currier's Microsymph. Nanosymph is actually a 4 movement symphony, lasting 1 minute, that more or less conforms to the standard classical symphonic form: a kind of sonata-form, followed by a ternary (ABA form) 'dance-like' movement, followed by an 'adagio' of sorts, and finally a 'brisk' rondo.