Hello. Some of you might have noticed that although the title of this album is Gardens, there is no track entitled as such. That's because Gardens represents the concept of the recording as a whole. This collection of works was started in 1978 in Omaha, Nebraska and Hollywood, California. It was initially completed in 1991, and was released as a cassette. I've been updating the material over the last 20 years. Music electronic/computer technology has advanced so much over those decades as to be unrecognizable from 1991 to the present day. The original 1991 release contained these pieces:
1. A Rainbow in the Graveyard (Composed 1991, Hawthorne, California)
2. Flex (Composed 1978, Omaha, Nebraska)
3. Triple Conjunction (Composed 1978, Omaha, Nebraska)
4. Orange Memory (Composed 1980, Hollywood, California)
5. Big Deal, Big Deal (Composed 1986, Hawthorne, California)
6. Mommy (Composed 1980-1986, Hollywood, California-and Hawthorne, California)
With the exception of a few of my vocals and samples of my vocals, these pieces were performed entirely on an Atari computer , 2 Kawai synthesizers, an early Alesis drum machine, using the Notator sequencer program. I recorded them on an early Sony Consumer DAT machine.
A Rainbow in the Graveyard is the only piece on this album that was a completely new composition. I think it strikes an interesting balance between the complex and simplistic. And, even though on its face it has nothing to do with rock, I believe it actually rocks! Believe me, I did not set out for it to do such a thing--I always use chance operations when I compose. In any case, I think the composer's intent is totally irrelevant--especially when it come to instrumental music. Listeners reconstruct the sounds every time they listen to a piece. Even time is different for each listener. Some will think a piece is long while others will think it short, and so on. Does that mean music analysis and theory are useless. Of course not! There are proven and agreed upon patterns in music. Music theory and analysis is an art in and of itself. I find music theory to be very inspiring. I look at it as a deep meditation on music. I look at chance operations like Charlie Parker thought about improvisation. He said that a musician should practice hard and then forget about what you practiced when you play and improvise. Likewise, I study theory and ear training very hard, but I "forget" all that when I'm composing.
Back to A Rainbow in the Graveyard. I was conducting one of my bizarre photo shoots in a graveyard when an actor struck a pose in front of a gravestone and there just happened to be a rainbow brightly glowing directly behind him. The image stuck in my head, and I think it flowed from my mind as I was composing this piece.
Flex is a piece I composed on the pianos at the Omaha School of Music and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. It never occurred to me to write it down, when you're young everything seems immortal and that you'll forget nothing. Fortunately, for me, a guitarist friend of mine, Kevin Evans, demanded that I write the sucker down. So, he actually sat down and transcribed it himself over about a week's time. I'm sure glad Kevin did that, because this piece would have been completely lost otherwise. It's one of the few pieces from my intense Fusion (Jazz-Rock Fusion) period. It was Fusion music that inspired me to study theory and expand my musical tastes.
The piece itself is about another guitarist friend of mine, Randy Davis. We studied Fusion music intensely together. We pulled many all-nighters devising hundreds of short technical etudes that'd strengthen our musical skills. This was in a small town, North Platte, Nebraska, and before VHS--so we were pretty much isolated from distractions and culture in general--we could really focus. We'd use Mickey Baker jazz books and the like. Plus, Randy had an amazing ear. He transcribed a ton of Al Di Meola and Larry Coryell pieces. The only guy I've ever known to have as good an ear as Randy was another guitarist from North Platte--James Parrish. These guys could listen to anything and work it out! As a matter of fact, I received my first music lessons from Jim.
Anyway, Randy was a muscular guy with long straight blond hair. He used to fuss over his hair a lot. Flex was his favorite brand of cream rinse. He also could play all types of music, except classical, although he did love that music as well. He was also very musically flexible. Hence the title Flex.
Randy is no longer with us. He died in a hideous car wreck on a lonely country road somewhere in eastern Nebraska. His head popped off and his body was horribly mangled, but his guitars, stored in the trunk, were sensibly unscathed. The reason I can say any of this without much apprehension is because we talked and joked a lot about death. We mocked death and the dead alike. Nebraska has a plethora of dark, empty country roads--and many of them lead to death's door, located at the Castle of Oblivion. Randy always said that when he died he'd try to perform a humorous, military type of "salute." I don't know if he was able to pull that off in the end, but when I heard of his death, I saluted. Life is strange.
Triple Conjunction was written entirely in Omaha, NE, while I lived alone for a year. I wrote it totally without an instrument on manuscript paper. I practiced contrabass and bass guitar intensely during that year. I was quietly waiting to move to Los Angeles in late August. I wrote the piece during an actual Mars-Jupiter triple conjunction in December of 1979. I think the next time it'll happen is sometime in the 22nd century. I think. Heh, heh. EVERYTHING I know of will be gone. A mere 33 years has changed most things already. Computers at that time were primitive, to say the least. We had a computer at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. We used it for ear training. It was dial-up--EARLY dial-up. I had a hard time entering my name since I had ZERO typing experience at that time. Ugh. I never even imagined what computers would mean for music--outside of Babbitt-punch-card type of composition.
Ten years later, 1989, I had an Atari computer with MIDI capabilities. Drastic change doesn't even begin to cover the stark transformation that took place during those 10 years. This piece was never performed by a live band. But lucky for me, MIDI came along! Jazz Fusion was still where my head was mostly at.
Orange Memory was completely composed in Hollywood, CA. It was intended to be performed by trio I was in. As with all the groups I was ever in--FAIL! Which is why I generally hate people nowadays. Again, it was MIDI, "FTW." Like Triple Conjunction, this piece was finally performed with my computer studio in 1991--Hawthorne, CA. References: Me and my brother used to get up early and hike to the Platte River in North Platte, NE. We'd usually build a fire and cook breakfast out there. We liked doing it in the Fall, 'cause there were no mosquitoes around by that time. Everything was orange. The sunsets on the LA beaches reminded me of this orange. Once we forgot an oven mitt and my brother used his shirt. The shirt caught fire. More orange. A million miles away I was walking east down Hollywood Boulevard during sunset. A man I was approaching was propositioning a girl garbed in green and yellow plaid pants for sex. She had a bag full of groceries.
She looked confused. Yellow and green plaid pants. Orange everywhere.
And now we come to the new addition to this album--Section 9/Nein. This piece was composed by me and performed by the band/ensemble Hubris Tech:
Kelly Dowhower --Composer, Contrabass, Vox, Dramatic Action, Electronic Tape
Kevin Evans --Composer, Guitar, Vox
Albert Harum --Composer, Keyboards, Vox, Dramatic Action
Dan Willard --Winds, Vox, Dramatic Action
This is the only recording of Hubris Tech, c. 1986. It fit with the apocalyptic feel of the rest of this album. It was recorded live in East LA. Big Deal, Big Deal and Mommy were performed by Hubris Tech, also. No recordings of these performances exist. Again--praise MIDI!
Section 9/Nein was recorded on an Akai CS-M3 cassette deck and mixed down, finally, with Sonar X1 Producer (Expanded).
I put in a lot of extra added sound goodies to fill out the apocalyptic feel of the piece.
You are alone.
No one cares.
No one can care.
You don't know why there is a war swirling around you.
It was there before you were here, and it will be there when you're not.
Your existence is listening to echoes of other lives fading--nothing more.
You're a rotting in process.
Children's voices retreat as they ignore your journey back to even more nothingness.
Snicker. Shrug. Fart.
Big Deal, Big Deal, is a piece inspired by the movie Little Murders. It's a story about how peaceful life would be if everyone was armed. An NRA utopia--where gun rights are more important than human rights.
Of all the original pieces, Mommy has been the most revised for this release. Nothing has been taken away--but a host of additions were embedded, that I believe enhance the apocalyptic nature of the album's overall nature. Mommy is definitely the cumulative point of the album. It's a stroll down memory lane's oddest angles--where the brighter the light shines the darker things appear.
The very real events that inspired this piece, are far more dreadfully dark than any traditional musical techniques can convey--at least directly. An ending piece about ending.