The October gathering of the music meditation project produced some very inspired music, and the following is the most inspired of the lot:
Hope that everyone was entranced as I was. And don’t forget about next Saturday’s music series MUSIC: QUESTION MARK at 7 pm. Especially come for the last set which will feature anyone and everyone interested in creating completely improvised music.
Happy to announce that there is a new monthly music series entitled MUSIC: QUESTION MARK devoted to promoting experimental music, ambient music, avant-garde jazz, noise rock, soundscapes, completely free improvised music, and other sonic phenomena on what is usually considered the fringes of music.
The inaugural concert is taking place on Saturday, October 14 at 7 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (800 N A Street at the corner of 8th Street — back entrance). There will be several groups performing culminating in a final set which is open to everyone who wants to join in (no musical experience necessary!).
The music meditation project had its inaugural meeting at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Sunday last, and it was a fantastic gathering, filled with an immense amount of positive energy and a willingness to explore both sound (and the mental states which it can trigger) and mind.
Here’s an audio fragment of the gathering which captures some of the energy which manifested:
Thanks to all who came! It was a sincere joy to be a part of the experience. Hope to see everyone at the next gathering scheduled for June 25. Also please check the calendar for the schedule of meetings: during the summer, though we would love to meet weekly, the gatherings may be a bit irregular.)
Ryuichi Sakamoto — of The Yellow Magic Orchestra and The Last Emperor fame (to mention just a few things) — released a new solo album after 8 years on April 28th of this year. It’s a beautiful record and I can’t praise it enough. It also contains music which could be described as “restorative” and other music which is definitely ambient.
And the ambient music is ambient in a way not too alien from what we sometimes try to achieve in our gatherings. Sakamoto makes use of sound just as much as actual musical tones to create pieces of music, or soundscapes, or sonic art. And he puts sounds together which you might not think actually “go together” but which, upon a little more exposure and reflection, seem to be perfectly matched. And seem to be a lot like hearing sounds and music in our daily lives where we are inundated with a constant stream of sound.
Here’s one cut entitled disintegration (it is not capitalized on the record):
And here’s another one called ubi:
These cuts are just a small sampling of what the record has to offer. If you’re intrigued do check out the rest of it (some gorgeous synth playing is to be found!).
When we make use of (musical) sound creatively it’s not a bad idea to expose ourselves to as much music as possible. And as much sound as possible, for that matter.
In being exposed to new styles and systems of music we often will be forced (if that’s not too strong a term) to confront some of our basic assumptions about music. For example, it might be taken for granted that music will have some kind of melody with chord accompaniment. But when we listen to Gregorian chant we find that there are only melodies, and no underlying, simultaneous harmony whatsoever. We can listen to certain styles of Indian, Thai, and Gamelan music and — though they differ amongst themselves considerably — find that while they have harmonic accompaniment they lack any sense of chord progressions.
The assumption we are going to confront today has to do with how many pitches there are in an octave. Here in the West the scale has been divided (in different ways) into 12 pitches. On a piano for the last several centuries it is the case that there are 12 evenly spaced, or equal tempered, pitches.
This isn’t true globally. In Turkish, Arabic, Persian, and Indian music (to name a few) the are other tones in between these 12 pitches. Without delving into the musics of those cultures what we’re going to look at in this post is music made by composers here in the West who have embraced this idea and made use of it in their music.
A good place to start is with quarter tones. These are notes which are found between the semi-tones, or half-steps, of the standard Western scale. A whole tone (say, from the note C to D, or from F to G) is composed of two half- or semi-tones. Dividing these into two parts thus gives us four divisions, or four quarter tones, of the whole tone.
Some great music to listen to first is Ivan Wyschnegradsky’s (1893-1979) Twenty-four Preludes in Quarter Tones, no. 3. Try to listen with as open a mind as possible: initially it might be hard to get beyond the feeling that the music is simply “out of tune,” but in this piece the quarter tones help bring out the melancholic nature of the music.
Other composers who have written quarter tone music include Charles Ives, John Cage, Krzysztof Penderecki, Lou Harrison, and Henry Partch (to name a few).
And here’s a fascinating demonstration and discussion of music on some different contemporary synthesizers by the amazing Dolores Catherino. Her music makes use of even more notes than the quarter tones heard above: in fact she goes so far as to divide an octave into over a hundred parts (compare this to quarter tones which divide an octave into 24 parts). Tones like this are called microtones, and here Catherino refers to the use of them as polychromatic music.
One reason for using so many different pitches is to help mimic sounds in nature (like bird and whale songs) which don’t necessarily use discrete pitches but rather have sounds which exist on a continuous spectrum. If nothing else hopefully the sounds of these quarter tones and microtones will help us hear that continuity of sound, and inspire us to make use of it.
It’s been a little while since the project has gathered (and even longer since I managed to get a recording of such) but last night we were back at it with a lot of energy. We were not a huge ensemble and that worked really well for our last improvised piece of the evening when we embraced the concept “less is more”.
It was, as always, a sincere pleasure. Hope to see everyone next week!
Well it’s been a while since last I posted. Mainly I’m going to blame the fact that I’ve had some technical difficulties that are slowing down the process (totally true), but I should also mention that a couple of weeks went by without classes.
But this week we were back at it and had a fabulous session. I’ve uploaded a clip near the end of our gathering that combined some elements of our rhythmic exercises/meditations — they’re almost trance inducing at times — with an overall fairly “mellow” vibe.
The laid back energy of this meditation worked well as a bridge of sorts leading into our final “embracing of silence” improvisation, which typically makes as much use of sound as music. I don’t have a recording of this session’s “silence” but feel free to browse back through the archive where there are many such. And if you do so let us know what you think here (or there, for that matter).
This is the second installment in the series “Talking About Dot, Dot, Dot…” where I have the privilege to sit and talk with people about matters of creativity, spirituality, and just living life in general.
Today I had the great fortune of getting to talk with Steve Cleaver: author, playwright, poet, songwriter, yoga teacher, radio host, and good guy. I will not try to summarize the interview as I would not be able to capture any of the spirit in doing so, except to say that we focused mainly on what the word spiritual might mean, as well as creativity, and how those two things relate. Suffice to say it was immensely interesting, and here it is in its unvarnished entirety:
Steve Cleaver is the author of the highly praised Saving Erasmus:
which book can still be obtained from places like amazon.com, and might just be available in your public library. He is also the host of the radio show Leave It To Cleaver which airs on Sunday evenings from 7 to 8 pm on WECI 91.5 FM, Richmond, Indiana’s public radio. He also teaches yoga around the Richmond, Indiana area. More information is available on his website: stevecleaver.com.
You can check out other posts in this series by clicking here.
Our gathering this evening was intimate yet powerful. I’ve managed to upload two clips of our improvisations: the first is a rather rock-blues sounding thing, the second very ambient. Both end abruptly because of my (lack of) editing.
Gamelan and Music for Airports come to mind for the second one. Any thoughts?
Thanks to everyone who made it out! Hope to see you all next week…