Saturday, September 21, 2013

18.) Whales September 19, 2013

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Thursday I was surfing with my buddy Justin Keller out at Rockaway Beach in Queens, NY.  The waves were okay.  Not the best, but still some fun rides.  Halfway through the session we spotted some unusually large animals surfacing about 150-200 yards out to sea.  At first we thought dolphins, which we have seen before.  But soon these creatures were jumping out of the water and they were clearly something bigger.  Some construction workers working on the boardwalk thought they were Humpback whales.  They were too far to accurately identify by my knowledge, but they were definitely whales.  They spent about 45 minutes surfacing, doing back flops, and spraying mist out of their blowholes.  It was truly an amazing sight, unforgettable.  All the surfers were cheering them on as they showed off.  I was so surprised to see whales this close to New York City.  It was the best.  I felt a connection to nature.  My cozy wetsuit was in imitation of the skin of these magnificent creatures and we were both playing in the sea.

So I had to somehow relate this to a composition.  I had already started the piece before we saw the whales, but decided that it had a "watery" enough sound to warrant a whale referencing title.  The piece is constructed of Messiaen's third mode.  First I extracted all the seventh chords I could out of the scale, then constructed a melody, and finally harmonized it with the chords.  At one point I was playing with the idea of having pedal tones underneath, but finally decided I liked it better with out.  For my improvisation I stayed within the scale.  It was a little tricky and you might hear me hesitating a bit, but halfway through I started thinking in blocks of these chords which I had used to construct the piece, and I think the improvisation opens up a bit then.

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