1. FIELDS AMAZE (8:35)
Keyboards, gamelan and percussion: Patrick Grant
Additional gamelan: Barbara Benary, Percussion: David Simons
2. A VISIBLE TRACK OF TURBULENCE (9:23)
Flute: Keith Bonner, Clarinet: Thomas P. Oberle, Piano: Patrick Grant
3. EVERYTHING DISTINCT: EVERYTHING THE SAME (12:18)
Keyboards and percussion: Patrick Grant Percussion solo: David Simons
4. ATTACK (3:40)
5. DECAY (4:33)
6. SUSTAIN (3:08)
7. RELEASE (2:35)
Flute: Keith Bonner Clarinet: Thomas P. Oberle, Viola: Jovannina Pagano, Cello: Jane Scarpantoni, Piano and keyboards: Patrick Grant
8. IMAGINARY HORROR FILM - Part 1
9. IMAGINARY HORROR FILM - Part 2
Patrick Grant, Marija Ilic - keyboards, John Ferrari - drums & percussion, Keith Bonner - flute, Thomas P. Oberle - clarinet, Darryl Gregory - trombone, Martha Mooke - viola, Maxine Neumann - cello, David Simons - theremin & percussion, Dominic Frasca - electric guitar, Mark Steven Brooks - electric bass, and Alexandra Montano - voice
Tracks 1-7 recorded, edited and mixed at Looking Glass Studios NYC
Recording Engineer: Garry Rindfuss, Assistant Engineer and
Editing Engineer: Dante DeSole, Assistant Editing Engineer: Ryoji Hata, Administration: Amanda Riesman, Gamelan instruments provided by Barbara Benary and Gamelan Son of Lion, Large kendang drum and additional gongs provided by Skip LaPlante and Music for Homemade Instruments
Tracks 8-9 recorded 2000 at sTUDIO 41 in NYC. Mixed and mastered by Patrick Grant.
Album cover design: Lost In Brooklyn Studio
Produced by Patrick Grant
® & © 1998 & 2000 sTRANGEmUSIC
FIELDS AMAZE (1997)
This piece shows my interest and study of the Balinese gamelan, the indigenous percussion ensemble of Indonesia. For those who may not know, the gamelan (which literally translates as "ensemble" or perhaps in a more Westernized sense, "orchestra") is comprised of metallophones in various octaves with gongs and drums delineating the overall structural points of a piece. Gamelans of Indonesia use two different tunings. The first is known as Slendro, a five-tone scale that very, very roughly translates into our familiar pentatonic scale (the black keys on the piano). Like Western music, various modes (I think of them as fiavors) can be made with this scale depending on which of the five tones is chosen as tonal center. The second tuning is called Pelog, a seven-tone scale that purports to divide the octave into seven approximately equal steps, but this is never the case. There is always some adjustment made by the instrument builders depending on their taste. Fields Amaze uses this second tuning, the Western approximation of which would be D-E-F-G#-A-Bb-C. In Indonesia, all tunings deviate from village to village depending on the gong-maker and the general aesthetic of the region. In fact, there is no A440 reference, so all tunings can start on any pitch and be relatively constructed from there. Villages will get into heated quarrels over whose tuning is better. Wow.
I have been able to go to Bali twice, in 1994 and '95, and was fortunate enough to have studied with I Wayan Lantir, the son of Grindem, one of the teachers of Colin McPhee, the composer who studied in Bali in the 1930s and brought the Balinese gamelan to the attention of the Western world. During this time, I had also become connected here in New York with Barbara Benary's Gamelan Son of Lion, the East Coast's first gamelan ensemble, which gave me many opportunities to try out ideas with a group that focuses on contemporary repertoire.
Fields Amaze, which I wrote for this group, is a hybrid of a number of cultural musics. First there's the gamelan, and second, there's the piano, which functions as a solo instrument in a Western sense, often to Bachian effect over a pedal point. Then there's the cross-rhythmic aspects which are informed by the music of Latin America and West Africa. My sincere hope is that, despite this hodgepodge of infiuences, Fields Amaze is a piece whose sum is greater than its parts. It was premiered by Gamelan Son of Lion with myself as soloist at the Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in Prospect Park, in the summer of 1997.
A VISIBLE TRACK OF TURBULENCE (1996)
I have often been drawn into music by extra-musical forces. I had been deeply interested in finding forms and structures in nature and then manipulating them for narrative purposes. Many algorithmic computer programs for musical structures had become available via the Internet that generated patterns of music determined by a user's manipulation of variables. I had up until then done this the hard way: by throwing dice, using a calculator or by mapping tones onto visual media. This was because, firstly, I didn't yet own a computer and, secondly, I had convinced myself that it built character to understand a process at a "hands-on" base level before turning it over to a machine.
I used freeware programs based on recursive equations found in chaos theory. The programs themselves weren't much and didn't even save to MIDI. I had to capture the results on an out-of-sync, drifting sequencer, then shuttle that back into a notation program and do LOTS of clean-up. This turned out to be pretty tedious, but was producing interesting enough results to be worth it. The resultant musical "stock" I likened to lumber in a lumber yard: it was now up to me to merely play the carpenter and decide what I wanted to build with this great variety of different materials.
Around this time, I was asked by the downtown New York performance collective Music Under Construction to be a part of their annual composer and choreographer collaborations. It was from this eventual collaboration, with choreographer and dancer Mane Anthony, that the musical material I had been working on had reason to take final form. Ms. Anthony expressed her desire to create a piece that was to be a kind of a wake in the funereal sense. I myself was hoping to create something a bit livelier, so we had to work out a solution.
I love dictionaries since a word or phrase can be a source of inspiration and the dictionary didn't let me down this time. I looked up the word "wake" and found one definition to be "a visible track of turbulence" trailing a boat moving forward in water. That was it. The metaphor of turbulence, which plays a role in chaos theory, was my creative point of entry into the piece.
Features of the music itself are the use of parallel motion, subtractive rhythmic processes based on rhumba rhythms, and metric modulations from section to section (each small section goes into triplets which in turn become the straight duples of the following section). When the tempo gets to the first climax, the tempo is halved, marked by a silent moment which in rehearsal we referred to as the "eye of the hurricane." The music resumes only to build up again into an even more frenetic second climax and ending. The piece was premiered at The Construction Company, New York, in December 1996.
EVERYTHING DISTINCT: EVERYTHING THE SAME (1995)
A fine example of my composition technique pre-computer, when I manually handled the operations that created the many layers of this piece. It was my hope that by layering as many musical processes as possible, one layer would hide another from the listener. The organic quality thus created would give the listener a feeling that there was indeed a pattern behind the music, one that would reveal itself over time. This piece was originally written for game· Ian but soon revealed itself to be far better suited for three just-tuned keyboards along with the gongs, percussion and pulse of the original.
Everything Distinct: Everything the Same is structurally based on a visual model from chaos theory, the Koch Snowflake, which musically can best be represented as ABA forms within ABA forms. I found that 16 bars of material put into fractaline form could generate 81 bars of structure, a framework for each of the work's three large sections. Each section uses a different mode to highlight a different aspect of the piece's just intonation tuning. The first section uses all seven tones of the scale, the second one uses four, the third uses five (technically, the third section should have gone back to the seven-tone mode of the first to maintain ABA form, but these inexplicable breakings of the process keep things livelier and less symmetrical).
I go through as many textural possibilities as possible in the three large sections-Big A, Big B and Big C (the "everything distinct" part of the piece)-making a "swiss cheese" of the music by sculpting away unneeded material. So, an ''A" measure, the most repetitive of its type in this structure, will sound different (yet familiar) every time it cycles past due to the number of parts playing (or not playing). (The "everything the same" part of the piece is represented by the 3 x 16 bars of root material Little A, Little B and Little C - from which the piece is generated.)
Rhythmically, both "B" sections are written in half the time of the ''A"' and "C" sections. This helps create the illusion of many different tempi even only two are used throughout the entire piece (with the exception of the dramatic accelerando and molto ritard at the very end). Similar processes of dynamics are also independently layered on top, further blurring the distinctions of each individual process into a whole.
The piece was first performed in the original gamelan version at the Greenwich House Music School NYC in May 1995 and in this definitive keyboard version at Context Studios, New York, in January 1997.
RELATIVE SEGMENTS (1997)
is actually a short symphony of sorts. The titles of each section - Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release-refer to the four controls found on a synthesizer's envelope generators, which determine the relative shapes of an envelope's segments. The work is held togeth· er by a number of unifying compositional areas that I was exploring at the time. First, it is an etude on the intervals of the major and minor thirds. Second, it's a study in modality, with ever-changing key signatures effecting musical phrases that retain their rhythms and places on the staves. Third, it's a study in fractal musical forms and how dividing phrases into different lengths by placing and displacing metrical accents can entirely change their meaning.
The keyboard instrumentation of piano and two electric pianos (one professional quality and one classroom quality) has been questioned by some of my colleagues, but for me it's a sincere choice. There's something about this piece that I find "basic" in a positive sense and that lends itself to these timbres. Plus, what can beat that madder-than-hell-bumblebee timbre of a cheap Wurlitzer's lower range?
All the segments go through a cycle I call the "zigzag of fifths" (as opposed to the more familiar "circle"), which forms the basis of the harmonic movement. Starting out in the key of C, the key signatures move up one sharp, then one flat, then two sharps, two flats, etc. Unlike the circle of fifths, it doesn't end up where it had started, instead ending either a semi-tone higher or lower depending on which way it's built.
"Attack" takes the seven note sequence 1357246 through a number of rhythmic permutations by placing accents at different points in the pattern. Accentuating every sixth, fourth, third and second note yield a variety of patterns and form, along with zigzagging modality, the essence of this movement. I find this technique, a staple of gamelan technique, almost inexhaustible as a source of inspiration and have written many pieces using it, as have many other composers, notably Joseph Schillinger and Daniel Goode.
"Decay" is simply a study in rhythmic entropy.
Initially constructed along a similar ABA fractaline structure as Everything Distinct, the structure gets compressed in the second half, distorting, warping and ultimately hastening its sickly conclusion despite the upward pull of the clave-inspired rhythmic rondo. I find the title of this segment particularly apt as I have always found its harmonies too sweet in a decadent kind of way.
"Sustain" is a study in whole note clusters moving through variations in orchestration. It is more about pure color than the other movements.
"Release" is, like the first movement, a study in accents but here, asymmetrically placed ones. The steady motivic pulse of a fast 3/4 meter holds together inversions and retrogrades in a multitude of key signatures. Offbeat accents, all intoned on the note F, threaten the rhythmically stability and harmonic movement with their consistent nagging. The spell is broken at the end, when a coda made up of a compressed form of every accent heard thus far breaks this gravitational pull and flies upward and out of sight.
Relative Segments was first performed at Context Studios, New York, in January 1997.
IMAGINARY HORROR FILM (1998/2000)
This thirteen section piece is in many ways my own paean to all of the truly awful horror films I watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) when I was a kid. At the same it is also a deconstruction of serialist compositional technique (which can said to be a horror in itself). However, all such sections have been written to create a bizarre sense of tonality (and that's a big Luigi "No-No" by twelve-tone standards). In this sense I am indeed a serial killer but, to my ears, I much prefer this twisted take on tonality and all of the genre-hopping it makes possible: harmonically and stylistically. For those of you who keep track of such things, the tuning is not the equal temperament of most 20th century composers but in Werckmeister III, the well-tempered tuning that Bach used. This way, each chord has its own flavor, however subtle, that sets it apart from all others and only adds to the slighty disturbed quality of this piece.
I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might want to create their own mental scenario but, here are the names of the sections as I imagined a possible narrative:
Part One - The Set-Up
Main Title & The Accident
Nine Months Later
Daily Living (Gnossienne No. 3.5)
Baiting the Trap
Going for a Drive
Part Two - The Pay-Off
Hitchhiker No. 3
Under the Knife
New Day to FACE
Album notes by Patrick Grant, Autumn 2001, NYC