Monday, February 22, 2010

Songs In Two Keys of Life

That's one of the perks of being a piano player. When you get sick of practicing your scales, you can do two different ones at the same time. The possibilities are excellent! This is how "Sage & Lupine" came into being. Listen as you read.
Out in Montana, at or nearby the wonderful Montana Artists Refuge, I was playing the B scale with my left hand, and the A harmonic minor scale with my right. To make it sweeter on the ear, I started the A minor scale on D. (Do I need to put these sounds in here? Just for the record, it's a little bit of a learning curve over hear at Composer/Blogger Central. So please pardon the spackling on my virtual walls. And feel free to make suggestions or requests.) Anyway, you WILL hear the final result of this combo.
The sound of those two scales got my little harmonic happy glands hopping, and I decided to write out a bunch of six-note combinations, aka voicings. I decided they didn't have to be sounded all at once, but could come in lightly staggered. So then I had rather many of these charming little sklangelations, strahmbootskies, or what-have-you. Yes, interesting little fragments of sound, maybe forty or so. I picked several of them and arranged them in an order that allows the harmony a delicate and deliciously gradual increase of excitement.
Somewhere in there came the name. I saw a field of gray-green sage with dark purple stalks of lupine scattered through it (a rendition of it in the video). Ah, a lovely and unexpected balance of contrasts. For me, a perfect visual manifestation of the harmonies the two scaled evoked.
Long composer's pause then, I think. As in - a day or two. And then came melody on top. And then, as I am so fond, came yet another melody on top of that. The good news about mindlessly practicing the two scales at once, for some period of time before I started the piece, was that I had quite a nice harmonic fermentation already roaring in my mind. And so, tra-la, no striving or silly contrivances were necessary to easily finish the piece.
Luckily for me, and for you, I have this extraordinary band called
Lyric Fury. Composer's dream, these angels. You'll be hearing plenty about them! So they played it, and here is a sample. You'll hear the barest beginning of a solo by Lisa Parrott on the soprano sax. Yes, the soloist has a different set of chords from the rhythm section for improvisation. Same celestially dissonant pairing as the rest of the piece. You like?


  1. Nice tune Cinch. Kinda reminds me of Steve Lacy with Mal Waldron.



  2. I'm digging this a lot - love that opening lick and how the band rolls with it.

    I love the posts about creative process - I find that for me it is all about the mistakes I make - without screwing up I stay within what i know - and although the majority of crew ups are just that - screw ups - occasionally this gem comes along that takes me in some completely unthought of and unique direction.

    Actually - you've motivated me to go and write a post about this. I will link back


    Best wishes


  3. Thanks to you, David & Andrew. Hey, what if you don't call them screw-ups? To liberally paraphrase Monk, if you play it wrong three times, it's on purpose. Or as one of my students once put it, "So repetition is the catsup of music?!". Yeah, repetition makes EVERYTHING tasty.
    I get the idea, though. Great to step outside whatever little fences we have built, whatever it takes.
    Thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to more.
    Peace, Cynthia

  4. sounds good. Thanks for the follow at Twitter... keep composing ;')