Fugues are like voyages with a return home. Beats attempt to get a groove on.
008BEAT, 2017, stereo
Polyphony, odd-numbered time signatures, deep bass, and contrasts of sparse simplicity progress into mounting layers that sometimes spill into chaos.
This music is instrumental - there is essentially only one word of lyric - so to hold your attention, the focus is on structure as a way to place sounds over time. Fugue was the structure that I chose to investigate, but I applied it to timbre and beat rather than pitch.
I wondered what would happen if I combined my interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach with my interest in that of Detroit techno producers like Kevin Saunderson? Would I get something that sounded like Kraftwerk? No, because I am also interested in the music of Edgard Varèse and Captain Beefheart.
I composed the core of this music in-transit to a daily job by using a handheld device with drum-machines, synthesizers, and effects. I composed freely in anonymity over headphones while surrounded by commuters who were entranced by their own devices.
Musicians need support for their craft, or they really have to abandon their efforts. Creativity dies if never encouraged.
The current challenge is to discover something to offer an audience that is rare and valuable – something that is worth paying for – when the music itself is freely streamed. The typical suggestion is to perform live and hope to sell t-shirts. But, right now I don’t have any t-shirts.
The optimal way to listen to this music is physically, in this case, on vinyl. This music is mastered for that format and structured as an album with two mostly equal-length sides. Each side starts with a prelude that lifts the curtain on what follows. Side A ends unresolved and invites you to flip the record over.
Fugues and Beats is offered in the following versions. Both versions offer a long-playing, stereo, 33 1/3 rpm, 12" phonograph record of music, along with notes, stickers, a magnet, and a download code. The music is professionally mastered and pressed to 180 gram, black vinyl for the best sound quality.
- The music is available worldwide for streaming or downloading from the provider of your choice.
- The music is also available for licensing; contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your proposal.
This prelude opens the curtain to side A.
Well, it’s really a false prelude because it doesn’t introduce themes that occur and are embellished later, except that this chord progression is repeated in Returns which is another false prelude.
The radio noises represent entropy, the universal tendency towards chaos and death. Music attempts to make structure. But structures are fragile. Entropy awaits always.
This composition has no narrative intention, instead it applies fugal structure and techniques to a simple motif in 5/8 time. The motif was improvised on a Korg synthesizer; the model and patch name are lost to memory.
- Starts by introducing the motif.
- Goes into layers of ever-mellowing, lower octaves.
- Explores pitches and temperaments as a tonal fugue bursts in. The intervals, in Ptolemaic Just intonation, digress from perfect to major and minor thirds to seconds and sevenths. But wait, the original motif was played on a keyboard and so is by definition equal-tempered. Oh my! After a brief pause, all of the layers play simultaneously as tone clusters.
- Returns home but changed. For the finale, the motif returns to predominance but with a bass foundation.
This meditation on war and death is in three parts:
- Prelude builds discrete sound effects – breaths, steps, rumbles, and radio communications – to a crescendo of approaching nighttime attackers. War is up-close and personal here.
- Passacaglia repeats a simple motif on synthesizers, which becomes overlaid by a melody that meanders to dissolution. Someone has died. A rumble overtakes.
- Postlude concludes with a collage of jet warplanes, race cars, and louder radio communications. War is fully mechanized now, distant and automated. Perhaps the war is over … officially. But victory tastes bitter because monitoring has become pervasive.
2‘34, 104 bpm
This beat started in imitation of the funky introduction to Stevie Wonder’s Superstition but wound up as a corrupted samba. The samba brought Sao Paulo to mind where wealthy people commute by helicopter.
A beat or a loop mustn't just lie there and repeat; it has to transform, start somewhere and go somewhere else. So it went outside as if you wandered into a festival of unfamiliar music in a large, chaotic city. It's a party! People dance. Hawkers sell. Protesters protest. Children run, scream, shout, cry.
Intro – The party starts.
1 – Voices emerge.
2 – Children and traffic frolic.
3 – We are outdoors in the city, and a helicopter monitors the festivities. Is it a passing commuter or the authorities?
2‘05, 180 bpm
Vasily Kandinsky was synesthetic, his senses translated into other senses.
This composition interprets his watercolor Horizontal Blue into sound. The image shows a set of vertical and horizontal lines that read like grouped eighth notes. The background is speckled and mostly blue, but with a red square on the left and a faint blue rectangle on the right.
Kandinsky Blue alternates A and B sections:
- The A sections translate the vertical lines into beats. Each horizontal line is voiced by a different percussion instrument. Bass notes and synthesized choirs fill the spaces.
- The B sections respond to and make variations on the A sections. Each B section gets progressively longer in response; why decelerate rather than accelerate? No particular reason, just to hear the effect.
Bells announce the changes of sections.
The rhythm is offbeat and complex, as can happen when you think synesthetically.
This false prelude opens the curtain to side B and repeats the chord pattern from Starts like but as an organ. Organs are formal, theatrical, grand, magisterial, and glorious, that is, until you press the vibrato button.