All music composed and played by Peter Baum except as noted.
Track 1 - Time (5:00.0) – Although each of us has an intuitive understanding of the meaning of the word “time,” no one really knows what time is. The piece begins with the imagined sound of the most basic components of the universe: sub-atomic particles. Next we enter the world of direct human experience with the sounds of a nursery, where time is slow, unhurried, and seemingly endless. As life becomes more complex the pace increases.
Track 2 - Grandfather (1:15.5) - A tribute to our lineage and to the personalities we glimpse in passing generations.
Track 3 - The Streets of Laredo (1:08.5) - A traditional song, author unknown. This is a simple song requiring only two chords. I find the melody very beautiful. The piece is a tribute to my father, who used to sing the song while playing guitar. I was about four years old when I first heard it.
Track 4 - Suddenly There Was You (2:40.7) - Life is full of surprises, and sometimes the most wonderful and unimagined happiness appears with surprising speed out of nowhere.
Track 5 - Bassoon, Strings, and Flute 1 (2:53.5) - What can I say? I used to play the bassoon.
Track 6 - The Orchestra Breaks Out (1:06.3) - Think of a formally dressed orchestra beginning to feel the beat, feeling a little free, and then breaking out.
Track 7 - On The Street Again (2:03.3) - I’m often moved by the personalities on the streets of a large city, a place where people struck by misfortune wander, drifting invisibly and lost past the people who surround them.
Track 8 - Lonely City Streets (2:18.4) - In the shadows at the end of the day the city gives way to the night, with canyons of empty space forming a world very different from that of the bustling daylight hours. In the growing darkness a lonely saxophone player fills the spaces between buildings with his sadness.
Track 9 - Poppin' (1:50.6) - For my son Ben, who likes the popping sound of one of the synthesized voices. He asked me to compose a song using that sound.
Track 10 - Marching Band (2:08.5) - There can be real excitement in a marching band, regardless of what you think of marching or bands.
Track 11 - City Cat (1:57.9) - A wise city cat appears. He moves with grace through his territory, mostly unseen.
Track 12 - A Hot Little Mexican Number (2:11.9) - I’ve admired street performers who come from other countries. They can be wonderful musicians, and some play on simple and crude instruments with great skill and beauty. I imagine the guys in this song are still in Mexico, where they came together to present music that they love. The trombonist showed up at the last minute, and the percussionist never arrived. I love those guys and their music.
Track 13 - The Clown (2:28.3) - Behind the laughter of a clown are tears. The bass line of the middle section is derived from a three hand piano piece that my sister and I used to play together as kids. I don’t know its name. The melody is reminiscent of some of the variations we used to make up for the right hand.
Track 14 - Flowers (1:53.9) – Sometimes beauty is not complicated.
Track 15 - Birds (2:18.2) - Sometimes it is almost enough to love deeply what we can never obtain.
Track 16 - I Am A Very Beautiful Duck (1:14.1) - It’s probably a wood duck (Aix sponsa).
Track 17 - Do Not Look Deep Into My Eyes (2:48.6) - I imagine an older woman, and there is something special about her. Her eyes are clear, but you would never want to look into them because they are a path directly to her soul. It is there you’d discover the suffering that humans inflict upon each other.
Track 18 - Sailing Away (1:22.5) - Dreams of peace, the wind, and waves.
Track 19 - I Miss You Still (1:43.2) - Inside everyone remains a piece of past suffering. Never mind… there is hope for tomorrow.
Track 20 - Bird Flight Past The Moon (6:00.0) - Every day can give us a moment of beauty. Sometimes it is the sight of birds in flight. With luck, with everything aligned just right, we see them in the stillness of the night, flying past the moon, high in the air with friends, enjoying flight, feeling the wind and the gift of time.
The Creative Process - folksyn
There are many ways to create music, and no one method will be best for everyone. Here I describe my own process in the hope that it will be helpful to musicians who are exploring their own creative processes.
The music on this album was created using a process I call “folksyn,” which stands for either folk synthesis or folk synthesizer. The term “folk synthesis” emphasizes the process while “folk synthesizer” emphasizes the musical tool that is commonly used, an electronic synthesizer. The main idea behind folksyn is to approach musical composition from the naïve perspective of an unschooled child exploring the possibilities of a newly discovered instrument. This means there is no right or wrong way of playing. Because the process is one of exploration rather than imitation, the music rarely takes a written form, and each piece is almost always in the process of evolving.
My personal approach to folksyn began long ago. I wanted to create my own music, and I wanted it to be closely connected to my inner emotional life. Although I did have classical music training on the bassoon, it resulted in an almost mechanical process of converting printed music notation into sound. There was emotional content, but its origin was from someone else’s feelings. If I were to create music whose source was my own emotions, I would have to learn how to connect those emotions to musical elements, and the particulars of those connections would be personal. The approach I decided to try was to sit at a piano and experiment. I would press a key without much thought or experiment with an almost random chord. I called the process “fooling around” on the piano. If the result was pleasing to me, I tended to repeat the sequence. If not, it would usually be quickly forgotten. I never wrote anything down because that would significantly have interfered with the experimental process, and it was antithetical to the idea that the developing piece should always be evolving. I also intentionally avoided becoming an accomplished sight reader of written music because I wanted to avoid the direct influence of other people’s styles to the greatest degree possible.
As I repeated pleasing sequences and forming phrases, I often would remember the sequence the next time I sat down to play. I became more familiar with the piano, and the experience of playing musical fragments began to form the basic elements that then could be used to form longer pieces and express feelings. The patterns over the keys became a dance. The modes and chords evoked moods and colors in my mind. Eventually I got to the point where I could use these basic musical elements to explore my inner emotional world. Some of the results are what you hear in my recorded music.
The folksyn process has advantages and disadvantages. Unstructured experimentation requires a great deal of patience, and it definitely is not for people who need immediate gratification. It took years to learn enough that would allow me to produce music I was satisfied with. In addition, I had to occasionally record my music, because otherwise I would forget some pieces. I also found that I sometimes would find my music was limited to fixed patterns and styles. I still have to consciously try new and unexpected things to assure my musical exploration continues in new and fresh directions.
On the other hand, there are many advantages to the folksyn approach. I am always closely listening to what I am playing and always feel free to change absolutely anything I don’t like. Because of this, the music is constantly improving. The process almost automatically creates well phrased music with all elements closely and naturally integrated into a whole. This careful listening means that the particular piano that I play or the particular synthesized voice I use can completely alter the path my compositions take. Even whether I use headphones or the built-in speakers of a synthesizer will have a noticeable effect.
The work on the Time album began with a relatively thorough exploration of the voicing available on the Yamaha YPT300 (selling, by the way, for under $150 in 2009, so that, based on cost, at least in the industrialized world, it really can be considered a folk instrument). By taking a few days to go through all 482 voices plus the various mode settings, I found a dozen or so voices that I really loved. I carefully recorded those voice settings in a spreadsheet so that later I could find them. It was those voices that I found were at the very heart of my creative process. It was as though by listening to those voices, I heard and felt the voice itself was trying to communicate the musical composition. It felt as though my fingers found the melodies and rhythms from the voice. I was not multi-tracking and not even using a rhythm accompaniment at this stage; that would come at the very end of the process. Each of the pieces I discovered in the voicing would be played hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. Each time through would be different. Each time through would result in minor changes and sometimes even major changes. I tried to make sure I played almost every day.
When I finally was at the stage where I thought the music was developed enough to record, and I was anxious to start working on new pieces, I spent some very concentrated time with multi-tracking software. It was during this time that I could add the additional layers I sometimes would hear in my head as I played various pieces. However, even at this stage, I kept the ability to change the central musical line in response to the layers. In fact, Bird Flight Past the Moon is an extreme example of this. As I worked on the original music line, I felt it needed additional sections before or perhaps following the main melody. To create these sections, I began long improvisation sessions. Sometimes I got rather lost in this music, and it wasn’t until I went back and listened to it that I discovered that the improvisation was much better than the original. I threw out the original and kept the improvisation, which is primarily what you hear on the last track.
Peter Baum is a rather shy person, and as a result you won’t find much personal information in this section. He says, “It’s really about the music, not me.” Trained as a mathematician and computer scientist, he currently is involved in artificial intelligence research. He lives with his wife and son in Onset, Massachusetts.
Production / Acknowledgements
Production: Aesir Recording
P.O. Box 1255
Onset, MA 02558-1255
Aesir Recording Number: 0001
All voicing from a Yamaha YPT-300 synthesizer, usually modified with editing and mixing software.
Cover design by Peter Baum. The base image of the earth’s moon is courtesy of NASA. The base image of Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) is courtesy of E. Vernon Laux. Images were subsequently modified using digital image processing software.
Special thanks to Naomi Arenberg for production assistance and support. Thanks to Ben Baum for lots of listening and his interesting requests. Thanks to Barbara Engel and Hester MacGregor for their advice and encouragement.
Document Version: 4.0
Last Modified: Monday, January 19, 2009
Copyright 2009, Peter Baum. All Rights Reserved.