An Album about Statement
Personal adornment has been a part of human culture for millennia. The drawing on the cover is from a 2000 year old wall relief of Cleopatra. Hair beads aren’t exactly new. Certainly, the limits of personal alteration and ornamentation are only affected by possibility and imagination. My interest is not so much in the actual adornment as in the statement, or more specifically, in the need for a statement.
Institutions, schools and training facilities often try to limit personal statement, as an equalizer or attempt to limit stress, but people have fertile imaginations and always seem to find subtle ways to express themselves anyway. I have chosen several different adornments and explored their (possible) meanings. The music concerns itself not with the actual adornment but in the emotional possibilities surrounding the choice of such an adornment.
- Bling is a word I learned from a violinist when I asked her what was all the stuff hanging from her cell phone. Of course, my wife and daughter already knew what it was. It seemed to be just showy stuff, and could be any sort of busy jewelry or decoration. Sort of a plastic Baroque thing, I guess. There are a lot of people in the world.
- For Your Hair. I think I am showing my age here. People used to give hair ornaments to little girls, or young women they were attracted to, as an act of affection.
- Arm Band. This is used to show solidarity with someone or a cause. It often shows maybe a desire to make things right, but can also be a tribute to someone who has passed.
- Tattoo. Tattoos are pretty permanent, and because of that, they were not common when I was younger. They are generally used for personal tributes or memorials, but are also now used to express one’s beliefs and guiding principles. I am impressed by the quality of the artwork that has found its way into tattoos. But even an artistic statement is personal.
- Black Veil. For me this is always associated with mourning.
- White Lace. This can mean a lot of different things, especially in dreams. Most meanings seem to be associated with either money or sex, but tend to be a sign of pretension. This is not always the case, but symbolism can be fickle.
- Face Paint. Face paint is used culturally all over the world for all kinds of different things, but in the West it seems to be mostly associated with aggression. Maybe painting your face helps to prepare for battle, I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, aggression doesn’t always work out so well.
- Wedding Ring. This track is the most meaningful for me, and this is the only adornment listed here that I actually use. Nobody enters matrimony without at least a little trepidation, but the love that keeps it going is always the same.
- Memento. I read a book in which the composer Max Bruch is taken at a young age by his father to Vienna to see an aging Beethoven. They arrive for their morning appointment only to find that Beethoven has died during the night. They ask to pay their respects and are let in. The young Max snips a wisp of Beethoven’s hair, and keeps it in a locket next to his heart for his entire life! A memento can be a very powerful thing in a person’s life.
- Bouquet. I have often thought about bouquets like I have thought of Christmas trees. It’s nice to bring nature into your home, but why kill a tree. Bouquets are a much milder version of that, and a plant often has many flowers, but still I’d rather have plants. Generally, the idea seems to be to make things more cheery and spring-like. Bouquets are also given as congratulations, or are gifts of respect and/or affection. I suppose their effect has more to do with who is doing the giving.
Personal expression is also one of the primary reasons for being involved with any of the creative arts. I suppose one could say that I am virtually wearing all of these tracks as personal adornments. Hopefully, I am wearing them well.
An Exploration of Spiral Motion
When I rededicated myself to the exploration of improvisation, which was about twenty-five years ago, I did it for the express purpose of purging intellectualism from my music. My mind had reached the point where it tried to control every aspect of my composition, and I felt that it was really becoming a hindrance to expressiveness. I tried to just play, listen and not control. It was hard, and it took some patience, but after about nine or ten months I began to loosen up and just let it happen. Later, when I decided to record what I was doing, I discovered that there were some things I did naturally to keep my music flowing and making sense.
Since one of the aspects of music I was “forgetting” was a regular rhythm and meter, I found that I would instead create momentum using cyclic gestures. New music I was creating was always presented with a sense of returning. I am not talking about “form” as much as just musical syntax. Continuous variation must make continuous reference back to the source or, in other words, a variation is just an altered repetition. And since what I was repeating has also been altered, there is continuous change. This kind of motion feels circular, and since there is also forward motion, the motion is more like a spiral.
So this album is a celebration of this spiral motion. The famous and delicious sandwich of the same name derives from the meat being roasted on a turning spit over a flame or coals. Each track is explores a different instance of circular motion.
A Samara is a winged seed, like a maple seed. Growing up, we used to call them “helicopters” and would throw them up in the air and let them spiral back to earth. Windmills has captured the imagination of writers for centuries, but it is the steady and taciturn movement that is portrayed here. A dancer’s Pirouette, on the other hand, is a twirling flourish of a totally different sort. Ultrasound takes me back to my wife Leslie’s first sixteen-week appointment, where my daughter’s incessant spinning in vitro left me in a state of heart-rending astonishment! The slow, banded rotation of a Gas Giant is a model of patience and wisdom. Willow Branches in the wind become a crown of wooden bolas swinging amidst its wary winged residents. Vertigo is what happens when you take all these spirals a little too seriously.
A piano album concerning the
uncertainty of our Future