In 1977, I started an improvisatory ensemble. It was modeled after some of the then-current jazz ensembles, except it did not have a drummer. Our “solo” sections turned into group free improvisation segments, piquing my interest in free improvisation, a trait which has continued ever since. For the ensemble, I wrote several tunes. During the summer, I used these tunes to create several piano pieces.Each tunes uses a different approach, though I used the ABA structure we used in our ensemble as the starting point.
After writing the first two suites, I decided to orchestrate them. After hearing a couple movements of the first two sets performed, however, I decided I liked them much better as piano pieces. As piano pieces, they are not only enthusiastic and vivacious, they are also quite virtuosic. The music just sounded better on the piano.
Voodoo Woman was one of the original tunes our ensemble played, but I forget what we called it. All of the players were colleagues in the Phoenix Symphony and about that time the PSO played Choros No. 10 by Heitor Villa-Lobos. The last movement uses a rhythm taken from Brazilian Voodoo ceremonies, and it is the same rhythm I used in this tune. We called the tune Voodoo Woman thereafter. What Now? is a title that seemed to capture the mood of the piece. It has a bit of a country feel to it. Treadmill is a dated metaphor referring to the urban business rat race rather than anything physical. Little did I know that there would be treadmills in so many homes. The piece opens with an ostinato that continues through most of the piece. A build-up of intensity and activity is followed, almost as an afterthought, by the actual tune upon which the rest of the movement is based.