Here are two suites of guitar music, both created and recorded in 2000. One from the spring and one from the fall.
Melancholy Variations, consisting of 25 short pieces for solo guitar based on a standard tune that has been one of the richest givers in the whole repertoire, at least in my life, was conceived soon after I first became seriously aware of the Goldberg Variations, which I think is the project of Bach’s that most nearly approximates what jazz musicians do—to spin out chorus after chorus of complex material from a simple 32-bar tune.
I’ve since gotten to know Bach’s masterpiece much better, and in fact wound up recording it. It’s already available at CD Baby (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andyfite3) as well as iTunes and Spotify and a number of other places. There is a beautiful elegance in the overall structure of the Goldberg which I did not try to emulate. However I did get fascinated by the art of canon, and I did write seven of them here, at seven different intervals.
It might be worth saying, since I do a lot of multi-track recording, that these 25 pieces don’t use any overdubs or punch-ins or anything like that. These I really played, as you hear them here.
The suite begins with a piece that was intended as a single short work, for the occasion of a gig at Birdland in New York City that Connie Crothers organized to feature a group of colleagues from New Artists Records. The date was April 5, 2000, and thence came the title, Song for the Fifth of April. The idea was to take this old song and let it serve as the foundation for something meant to resemble the single-note works in Bach’s Violin Partitas.
Improvising on the same tune a couple of days afterwards, and still, I guess, in the thrall of the Partita idea, I got my first glimpse of the idea of a whole variation cycle, and the work began in earnest.
Most of these are composed, but a good number are improvisations right off the top of my head. You can probably guess which are which.
Titles are always important to me—they’re like haiku when you get them right, only more concise—but these are even more so than usual. I feel they tell the story of that time in my life, the changes I was going through, and, not incidentally, of how it felt to be immersed in this creative process.
Four Days in Life popped up most unexpectedly when, on a whim, I recorded a long, freely improvised walking bass line, and then transcribed it with the thought of writing some counterpoint against it. The date, as it happens, was October 7, and, as it happens, that is the birthday of several of my dearest friends and favorite musicians: tenor saxophonist Charley Krachy, pianist Carol Liebowitz, drummer John McCutcheon, and alto saxophonist Amanda Sedgwick. So I called it Everybody’s Birthday, and saw very soon that it felt like a first movement of a good old-fashioned sonata.
So there it went. A Death of Innocence, the funeral march for my then 5-year old son Niklas marching sadly but stoically into a classroom. Dance with a Bridesmaid, the triple-time movement, and a peppy Rondo with variations to close, the Payoff.
I guess no one will doubt that on this suite I did indeed resort to some overdubbing…
July 8, 2012