This album is the culmination of my work as an electric violinist to date. It is a collection of themes and improvisations for violin & electronics. It is also a kind of bittersweet seal on presenting myself as a violinist. Not to say I will no longer play the violin – this is far from the truth. The violin is like a parent to my musical self. It helped me understand most of what I know about music and, for so long, was my only vehicle for expression.
Now I am more wholly equipped with a greater set of tools. Over the past three years I have become adept with BitWig studio, a DAW designed specifically for electronic music production. The guitar has also strummed its way into my life. This shiny new instrument is a breath of fresh air to play. It’s kin to the violin, but offers so many more options for creating harmony.
Recognizing these facts made me think that Fabrications would be my last major for violin and electronics. This was before I recognized all the fun I was having actually putting the music together! Especially for “Mechanics.” The piece is really a two bar loop with improvisations, but that seemed a little too open ended and not very engaging as a listener. So “Mechanics” became my first piece of music that is comprised 100% of studio processed violin sounds. There is still plenty of lyric violin, but you can easily tell that this track has a bit of a studio edge.
This processing and assembling was exactly what I love about composing. The music is like an abstract puzzle. There are pieces that you love, parts that you don’t love so much, and parts where you get stuck. My only goal is to transform all of the unloved parts into interesting new sections, and apply a transition to any of the stuck spots.
Here I present to you this album, which is 97% love and 3% stuck 🙂
You can listen to it with this BandCamp player, or from BandCamp directly, where you can buy the album.
Out of the Blue establishes our setting as an open, infinite, abstract space. This opening opens the mood for the entire album as a vehicle for thinking and experiencing.
The word Scalar is borrowed from computation. It is a variable given an arbitrary name to hold an assigned value. The value is up for change, except for the type of value that it is. I prefer a strongly typed system where you always know which type to expect from a given variable. The opening of the piece happens to begin with an A dorian scale – but this was entirely coincidental!
The way I hear harmony seems to exist in parallel to conventional ears. Damon is an excellent example of this difference. The piece shows strong influence of Middle Eastern and Carnatic motifs, yet it does not qualify as being classified in either of those two styles. For me, “Damon” is a vehicle for expressing the shadowed thoughts that reside deep inside.
Mechanics alludes to my love for American minimalism. While the piece itself has much more melodic content that most minimalism, the two note loop running through the entire piece is the glue that holds all the strings together. In live performance it is a little easier to be engaging, since I as the performer am present with the audience. Obviously that does not work with a recording. To make Mechanics more engaging, I took many more creative liberties in assembling during the pieces than I ever could in live performance.
The title track, Fabrications, is the most gentle of all the works. It features an almost alien leading voice- the violin, and its permanent secondary voice a fourth above. The sound is so bizarre, yet still so alluring. The unassuming accompaniment, not unlike the sound of a harp, gives a very soft foundation for this pair of voices to sing their song together. To me, this is the most colorful piece that evokes the brightest, most vivid imagery.
Putting this album together has made me reflect on what it means to be permanent. For so long I have valued improvisation for its liberty and expression. But an improvised statement has little meaning without context. Only through a well composed framework does the improvised line have its best life. This is the face of the jazz tradition. Jazz standards are often spectacular melodies over a defined chord progression and some kind of rhythmic feel. There is just enough definition to be a recognizable piece, but the instance of each performance will always be spontaneous.
Conversely, formal composition often aims to define every imaginable detail. There is much less wiggle room as the performer’s role is to interpret the piece to the composer’s intention. This is makes the music a great vehicle of expression for the composer, but less so for the performer. While I think this is fine, it is not what I want to do with many of my works. It would be too restricting to write down the pieces of Fabrications as formal composition. Instead, I balance a structured form with the freedom of improvisation.
I hope you enjoy.