The album title and cover illustration were inspired by a dream about Quan-yin, the bodhisattva of compassion.
In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, a bodhisattva (lit. ‘enlightened being’) has reached nirvana, but remains in the cycle of reincarnation to help release all beings from suffering. Quan-yin is the one who “hears the cries of the world,” an emanation of Avalokitesvara, the embodiment of perfect compassion.
In 2003, when I was in the process of recording this album, one of my annual Christmas projects (please visit my website to see a more complete catalog), I shared a puzzling dream with the dream-analysis group I was meeting with. When I followed the group leader’s recommendation to engage in a dialog with the personality in the dream, it became apparent, that I had directly experienced the archetype of Quan-yin.
Musically speaking, “Dragon and Bodhisattva” is a collection of old and new, simple and complex.
1. “Dragon” - The dragon often accompanies representations of Quan-yin. It represents tumultuous change, but amid the swirl of noise and confusion, the dragon holds the pearl of wisdom. The chaotic opening composition, “Dragon,” was a piece I began in 1986, during a period of tumultuous change. At that time, however, my equipment (cassette 4-track) was neither up to the task of recording it satisfactorily, nor (pencil and paper) effective notation. Fast forward a few decades, both of these situations remedied by the computer, I was finally able to approximate the sounds I was originally hearing in my head.
2. “Highland Reflection” - Contrasting immediately the swirl and chaos is a simple celtic theme which I found playing in my head after attending a local Scottish festival a few years back.
3. “The Late-for-work Rag” - was something I wrote while I was supposed to be getting ready to go to work. I have always enjoyed the happy sound that ragtime has, blended here with a bit of the Creole influence, as inspired by the Preservation Hall Dixieland Band.
4. “Quan-yin” - an elusive melody emerges from the mists of improvisation.
5. “White Canyon” - referring to the locale of the Quan-yin dream mentioned above. A contrapuntal development of a theme in a pseudo-orchestral setting
6. “Mercury” - Interplay of two themes for solo piano, in pseudo-classic styling. It begins as a sonata-allegro, with the two themes stated according to tradition, with the first in the tonic and the second in the dominant. It evolves into a series of variations on both themes, with the two themes alternating, emerging one from the other, and then finally blending together. “Mercury,” the God of change.
7. “Oblivion, Scenic Route” - inspired by a free concert in the park by Brian Auger, founder of the group “Oblivion Express.”
8. The piano improvisations explore the frontiers of melody, harmony, and style.
9. “Another room” - Here we get to the 'Avant Garde' bit. Don't worry, it's still fairly melodic.
10. - 14. I hope you enjoy them.