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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Composing, creativity and counterpoint.

Composing is one of the most invigorating, fulfilling and stimulating endeavours one can do in my opinion. It's much like writing a fictional story. The canvas is empty, so to speak, and is begging you to fill it with your imagination. Some of my instrumental compositions have come out of practice sessions where I will be trying something like playing over different time signatures or different harmony combinations and a song germ will emerge which I will try to make into a composition.

A composition of mine where I did just that was a song I entitled Cane. I was playing around with some counterpoint writing where one melodic line fits over another melodic line. Both work well together but also work well independently. This particular type of counterpoint is called 1st species counterpoint where it's single line to another single line. 2nd species is single line to two lines etc. In this case I wrote a bass line that was strong melodically and then wrote the melody line to fit into the bass line. The melody fits over the bass line being played twice. I play the bass line with the bass player first to establish the groove and then play the melody while the bass player is playing the contrapuntal bass line if you will. It works great and the two lines sound great together. I applied a reggae groove; hence the name Cane, one of Jamaica's major exports sugar cane. I thought of naming it after it's other big export but thought Cane was a better choice. I have kids.

Check out this video of my trio playing this song in London. Ted Warren on drums and Mark Dunn on bass. See what I mean about the counterpoint melodies.






I been listening to Pat Metheny Group's First Circle CD which came out in 1984. It's a beautifully composed recording and the individual playing as well as the ensemble playing on it is stellar. Pat Metheny plays several different guitars, Lyle Mays on piano and keyboards, Steve Rodby on bass, Paul Wertico on drums and Pedro Aznar on percussion and vocals. The song First Circle is a desert island pick for me. 6/8 time signature can emulate flying above the clouds like no other time signature.
Also listened to vibraphonist Mike Mainieri The American Diaries Vol. 2 The Dreamings CD. Deep ensemble playing and rich arrangements. New York tenor and soprano saxman George Garzone also plays clarinet with Marc Johnson on bass, Peter Erskine on drums, Dave Tronzo on guitar and slide guitar and others. If you haven't heard this recording or the first American Diaries with Joe Lovano instead of Garzone you must buy them.


That's all for now. Busy week teaching, some studio mixing and a gig on Saturday.



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