Saturday, April 19, 2014

50.) Damp Sponge April 19, 2014

This week was a particularly fulfilling week for me.  It started with a concert on Monday night with John Yao's 17 Piece Instrument, which is what he calls his big band.  Tuesday night I led a quartet with some of my favorite musicians in the world, Tony Malaby, Sean Conly, and Tom Rainey.   We played to a packed house at Korzo in Brooklyn, then went into my favorite studio to record the following day.   We played tunes from my weekly composition project.  The session was a blast - super easy, fun, and inspiring.  The guys played amazingly.  Thursday and Friday I was back at the same studio recording with John Yao's band.  It was a blast.  What a privilege it was to spend a week creating and documenting music.  I'm very thankful.

This great week made it a bit of a challenge to compose for this project.  I had an idea I was working with all week, chipping away at it when I could.  However, this morning, the idea was still not satisfying me.  I had this concept of two ascending lines of two non-retrogradable rhythms that would  kind of go in and out of phase together.  Originally I wrote freely within two transpositions of Messiaen's fourth mode.  However I wasn't really feeling it and I realized it was because the lines were changing too much.  So I changed each line to repeat the same ascending sequence of pitches, and I changed the bottom staff to be in the same transposition as the top staff.  The sequences don't align with the rhythm patterns, which results in nice variations.  The pitches of the lines start farther apart, then come closer together, then go apart, then closer together again at the end.

The title comes from a metaphor introduced to me by Denny Waxman.  It deals with communication versus attraction.  A dry sponge cannot properly absorb the liquid of a spill.  First you must get it wet.  The dry sponge is very attracted to the spill.  It wants to clean it up.  But because it's dry it cannot communicate with the liquid, that is until one gets it wet.  Opposites attract, but extreme polar opposites cannot communicate.  Likewise, things or people that are near identical can communicate, but lack attraction.  This metaphor can be used to understand relationships between people, between groups of people, between a person and their environment, and much more.  For example, a quiet mannered pianist, composer, macrobiotic, gardener like me might be attracted to rowdy, steak-eating,  football fan, just because we are opposites.  His different way of life could arouse my curiosity.  But he and I could have difficulty communicating because we have so little in common.  It might take a mutual friend to facilitate communication between us.  That mutual friend is the one who dampens the sponge, so to speak.  What is needed is a balance of attraction and communication for people or things to get along and understand each other.

Anyway, this idea has been resonating with me the last few weeks in many ways.  And in a way this piece exhibits these ideas also.  If you'll go with me here, you could see that the lines communicate better with one another as they come together in the middle and near the end.  Or is it the opposite?  I'll let you decide.

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