Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra -
The story begins back in the 1970s at the Juilliard School of Music, where I first began my musical explorations. I once had the opportunity at Juilliard to watch Pierre Boulez conduct Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring”. Passion burst out of each note of the piece, and the intense power of the full orchestral sound made an astronomical impact on me. Fast forward to the present…
In early 2010, my dear friend, the Venezuelan impresario, Emanuel Abramovits, invited me to play a few solo concerts. Emanuel was interested in my classical music background and promised me that, if I wrote an orchestral piece, he would find an orchestra to premier it. In a serendipitous twist of fate, days after I received Emanuel’s invitation, I heard a recording of a student orchestra in Turkey performing versions of Dream Theater songs. Eren Başbuğ, who at that point was only 18 years old, had single-handedly orchestrated and organized that impressive project. The stars had aligned, and through the magic of YouTube, I had found my orchestrator. Eren and I worked closely (thanks to Skype) as I worked on my composition, and by October, 2010, Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra premiered to a sold out crowd at Centro Cultural Corp Banca in Caracas, Venezuela with me at the keyboards and Eren conducting.
Challenges arose when it became time to find a method of recording this piece with a professional orchestra – a process that is costly and complicated. I decided to hold a crowdfunding campaign in order to raise what I would need to pay for the project, and I was amazed when, a few months later, my goal had been reached. At this point, an even larger obstacle emerged: how to find an orchestra that could handle this score. The music is both rhythmically and technically complex and its progressive sections would be especially challenging for traditionally trained classical musicians. Yet, again, the magic of the Internet connected me to Michał Mierzejewski and Sinfonietta Consonus in Poland. They had just released “Symphonic Theater of Dreams”, an album of orchestral versions of Dream Theater music. By their impressive grasp of DT music, I was confident that they would be able to conquer Explorations, and so it was decided that the orchestra would rehearse and record for several months in Gdansk, Poland while I lay my piano tracks down in New York, and then, in November, I would fly to Gdansk to put down some of my additional keyboard and iPad parts and work with the team in person.
I've sat in front of my synthesizers for years, twisting the knobs, trying to recreate the vast aural intensity of a live, acoustic orchestra. With Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra, I am finally able to hear one of my own compositions brought to life by that unmistakable sound. In writing this composition, I was able to bring together the elements of the most influential classical music I've experienced, along with the rock power and intensity that I am known for in my work with Dream Theater. Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra is a total "progressive" music experience. "Progressive" in that it is a forward thinking composition fusing my classical and progressive/metal sensibilities, but progressive also in showcasing new music technology.
Thanks for listening,
I wrote this piece in 2004 in honor of the loud arrival of my daughter, Kayla, into this world. Life at home raising two teenage daughters and our menagerie of pets is not a retreat of Zen calm, but the everyday chaos at my home in the woods is where my inspiration flows deepest. This song originally appeared on my 2004 album “Rhythm Of Time”. The original recording featured an amazing guitar solo by Joe Satriani and the incredible Rod Morgenstein on drums. In the years since I composed this piece, it has become a staple of my solo performances, so it is gratifying to present it in this new orchestral form.
Shouri Now was written for a Japanese Keyboard Magazine competition in 2013. “Shouri” in Japanese translates to “victory” or “conquest” which is a shout of support to the competitors, but also symbolizes my strong connection to the Japanese synthesizer company, Korg, where my career jump-started and with whom I still work closely.
In addition to releasing Explorations this year, I also created All That Is Now, a solo piano album. Untouchable Truth is from that album. I really wanted to hear one of my piano improvisations scored for orchestra. Since this was originally an improvisation, Eren created the orchestration only from what he heard in my original recording. In order to create flow and reduce any metronomic, monotonous elements, the sheet music ended up with some crazy, multiple meter changes. When it came time to play Untouchable Truth with the orchestra, the challenge was to smoothly improvise on the melody while looking at those crazy meters. An excellent challenge! I really like how Eren’s orchestration sits so gently in support of the piano.
Over the Edge
This piece was originally written as something that I could perform to show off the Kurzweil 2000 at a winter NAMM convention, the largest music manufacturers trade show of the year in the USA. In those days, playing at the conventions was one of my main performance opportunities, and a great way for me to show the industry what I was all about. I wanted to write the craziest prog piece ever. “Close To The Edge” by Yes is a favorite of mine, but I wanted this piece to be absolutely OVER the edge!! The concept was that it would be a 100% real-time keyboard performance with no other parts except for drums. Looking back, it is amazing that the 61-key K2000 (with the help of a lot of JR programming) could create such a huge sound! “Over The Edge” was the first song that I performed with Rod Morgenstein (at a NAMM show). I don’t think he will ever forgive me for that, since it is one of the most complex, multiple-meter compositions I’ve written! In 1997, we recorded it officially for the Rudess Morgenstein Project studio album. When selecting tunes for Explorations, there was no question that we had to experience this with full orchestra.
A Pledge to You
My house is filled with musical technology, but the piano is still my favorite instrument. On Thanksgiving Day this year, I improvised this piece in gratitude to the 900 pledgers all over the world who supported the PledgeMusic campaign and allowed me the opportunity to create this album.
All music composed by Jordan Rudess
Jordan played these instruments on this recording:
Steinway D Concert Grand, Korg Kronos, Synthogy Ivory, Spectrasonics Omnisphere and Wizdom Music’s Geo Synthesizer