1912011047 – for Amy WalkerJuly 16th, 2012
Dedicated to an old and dear friend of mine, Amy Walker; the next instalment to the Private Archive is long overdue. On hearing 0504012030 – for John Zorn & Mike Osborne, Steve Shepherd, then programme editor of Jazz on 3 (now as the force behind True Stories Told Live – based in Cardiff), invited me to record a session at Gateway Studios, Kingston. I couldn’t believe it. I’d send Steve stuff from time to time but I guess something clicked into place with 0504. I had done an extended performance of the aforementioned at the 2001 London Jazz Festival, so wanted to do something different for this session. It was bassist and composer, Riaan Vosloo, who introduced me to many of the samples I used in this piece – most of them found within his video collection. In fact, if it weren’t for Riaan, I wouldn’t have had a sampler to put them in. So, Riaan showed me how to work his Boss SP-303 Dr. Sample and away I went. The piece was recorded in a single take. Yours, at just a few clicks away for the bargain price of only £1.99!
For years afterwards I believed that I would never better this piece and it is still amongst the few things I am most proud of and was something of a breakthrough for me at the time. So, I am indebted to Steve Shepherd, recording engineer Steve Lowe and Jez Nelson at Jazz on 3 for recording and broadcasting this work. Below (if you’re REALLY interested) is an excerpt from my extremely unemotional PhD Commentary, which details various bits and pieces that I’d completely forgotten about…
Generally, the amount of preparation for each of the works is dependent on the circumstances around which the performance takes place, e.g., time frame, type of venue, time of day and most importantly how much notice is given prior to the performance date (these factors and their ramifications are discussed individually for each of the works). In the case of this work the preparation time was approximately two months. An approximate time frame of 30 minutes was given for the performance. Steve Shepard had originally asked if I would repeat the performance I had given at the finals of the Perrier Jazz Awards earlier in the year. I declined, and explained that I would create a new work especially for the session. The first visualisations to occur probably involved the various piano textures I had discovered through practice or listening to various compositions. For this work composers include: Morton Feldman, Alberto Ginastera, John Zorn, Maurice Ravel, Michael Daugherty and Gerald Finzi. These references are scattered throughout the work. Specific musical examples from particular works will be illustrated in Appendix I of this document. Other textures of my own devising include a somewhat brutal take on George Shearing’s block chord style.
Other compositional materials include Mike Osborne’s All Night Long heard at the beginning of the work. Later, John McLaughlin’s Binky’s Beam is developed in tandem with samples from The Wizard of Oz and Withnail and I (discussed under Execution and Analysis). Somewhere Over the Rainbow is also given an individual reading. Extraneous elements for this piece included Birdcalls: Cuckoo, Nightingale and Duck. A toy wind organ and various ‘animal’ noise pots along with a whoopee whistle. Pouring ice water into a glass and voice were also used.
Probably the first sample idea came from a conversation with a colleague [Riaan Vosloo] about a quote from the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – the substance of this quote providing a near perfect analogy to the way in which my solo performances and indeed this performance was going to work. Other samples were taken from the following sources: Derek and Clive LP – Come Again, Gerald Finzi’s Introit for Violin and small orchestra, Bruce Robinson’s film Withnail and I, Jack Jones LP – Sings the Music of Michel Legrand and The Wizard of Oz. Samples taken from The Wizard of Oz arose from pure chance, as the video just happened to be ‘lying around’ at the time. These samples, for me, seem to contribute an uncanny poignancy to the work. Once these fragments were loaded into the sampler, experimentation could begin with the layering of one sample over another. Once certain combinations had been found, a balance between the samples, extraneous elements and the piano textures began to form a framework.
Execution & Analysis
This performance took place at Gateway recording studios in London. The studio setting provided relief from the common anxieties that are usually present before a live performance. With the availability of the studio for most of the day, the atmosphere and preparation surrounding the performance was relaxed. Around 10 minutes before recording, the framework was written out for reference (I’m stunned that this actually exists at all):
‘00,00 – 00,01’: While anticipating the start of the recording I had a sudden urge to begin the performance with the Cuckoo call. This became a theme that recurs throughout the work, and also relates very appropriately to samples from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This is accompanied by a looped percussion sample providing a rhythmic momentum.
‘01,29 – 05,06’: Descending single notes from high to low register increasing in intensity sandwich the development of Mike Osborne’s composition All Night Long.
‘05,07 – 06,38’: Here, a short improvisation and formation of a spontaneous riff ‘persists’ despite the regular interruptions of Derek and Clive. This had been the intention of my original visualisation.
‘06,39 – 07,08’: A sporadic development of a piano texture borrowed from John Zorn’s composition Le Momo, until interrupted by the theme tune from the American T.V. series Cheers. This particular exploration indicated two things: that future practicing of this technique would improve the fluidity of execution (a factor present in the original composition), and enhanced stamina would be an apposite requirement if I were to develop this texture over a longer period of time. This was developed and explored in the Magic Mirrors and Bath Solo performances discussed later.
‘07,16 – 07,59’: A development section consisting of rapid activity at either end of the piano combined with mid register Ginastera-like sonorities leading into a short passage of rapid high register activity.
‘08,09 – 11,13’: The opening motif from Michael Daugherty’s Tombeau de Liberace is explored at length. The resulting brutal and energetic ‘stride’ rendition of this motif becomes more sporadic until an appropriate sample from Withnail and I is triggered allowing the release of tension to be carried by Finzi’s Introit for Violin and Orchestra.
‘11,14 – 11,55’: This section is an illustration of a visualization occurring during the performance. Layering the earlier Cuckoo’s Nest sample over Finzi’s Introit, coupled with the Cuckoo call created a layering of sentiment (Absurd, sublime, farce).
‘11’56 – 13,38’: A further example of a visualisation that occurred very early on in the preparation stage. Originally I had intended to spit a mouthful of water and laugh violently at the entrance of Jack Jones, but somehow the situation seemed to suggest that a more macabre approach was required – hence the screaming. The irony of this section is that I am actually very fond of the Jack Jones LP, but my commitment to trusting the visualisations meant that I was bound by this particular direction.
‘15,22 – 16,31’: Sonorities recalling Morton Feldman’s Piano and Orchestra are explored.
‘16,32 – 17,00’: An example of a sample found by accident whilst looking for others. This snippet of dialogue was just begging to receive the treatment illustrated here.
‘17,01 – 23,00’: This section explores John McLaughlin’s composition Binky’s Beam in tandem with samples from Wizard of Oz and Withnail and I. While searching for Somewhere over the rainbow I stumbled on a clip where the words ‘follow the yellow brick road’ had the same rhythm as ‘get in the back of the van’ from Withnail. During the performance these are looped which illustrates this connection. Moreover, there are three notes accompanying the Wizard of OZ sample that are almost synchronized in dialogue with the bass line from Binky’s Beam, again a connection that was not evident during preparation.
‘24,21 – 25,47’: The use of the sampler here demonstrates to great effect the ability to combine sentiment with cult humour in altering the aural perception of these fragments – potentially manipulating a listener’s emotional response to sentiments that are now ‘out of focus’.
‘25,47 – 26,52’: Here begins the reference to Shearing’s block chord style mentioned earlier. Owners of the Sony J5e mobile phone will be able to recognise the Blueslite ring tone taking on a rather more aggressive form.
‘27,03 – 28,24’: At this point, bass sonorities and a repeated-note motif recall Ravel’s Le Gibet. This occurred as an afterthought – leading to the iced vodka shocks of a re-harmonised Somewhere Over the Rainbow. This harmonisation was originally intended to follow the ‘I’m going to be a star…’ sample.
‘28,29 – End’: The end of this work develops the ‘hanging’ theme of Le Gibet. The last of the samples from Wizard of Oz is heard before fading out. An intuitive decision to close the performance with the final statement from the Cuckoo call brings the work full circle.
This work is perhaps the most well balanced of first three presented here in terms of the variety of the samples chosen, and how well these complement the piano textures and extraneous elements. The overall effect of this work displays a consistency in the balance of humorous and serious events, the high intensity of both qualities emphasising these events with clear distinction.”
Session Gallery (pictures by John Eccleston) (note the Tommy Cooper T-Shirt and Bontempi wind-powered organ to my left…)
(microphone test: iced water)
(with Steve Shepherd)
(and no, that’s not a cigarette of ANY kind…)
1912011047 – for Amy Walker – Work Reference List
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Milos Forman, Fantast Films/United artists, 1975 (Warner Home Video, 1997)
Withnail & I. Bruce Robinson, Hand Made Films, n.d.
The Wizard of Oz, Richard Thorpe, King Vidor, Warner Bros., 1939 (Warner Home Video, 1997).
Cook, Peter & Moore, Dudley. Derek & Clive – Come Again, Virgin, n.d.
Finzi, Gerald. Introit, from Finzi Clarinet Concerto, Lesley Hatfield, Northern Sinfonia, NAXOS, 1995.
Jones, Jack. Jack Jones Sings Michel Legrand, RCA, 1971.
Scores & Musical References
Daugherty, Michael. Tombeau De Liberace, Faber Music, 1996.
McLaughlin, John. Binky’s Beam (Transcribed from Sound Recording: Extrapolation,
Osborne, Mike. All Night Long, (Transcribed from Sound Recording All Night Long,
Ogun Records, 1976).
Portonoy, Gary & Hart Angelo. Theme from Cheers, (Transcribed from memory).
Ravel, Maurice. Gaspard de la nuit, ed. Dover, 1986.
Zorn, John. Le Momo, Carl Fischer, 2001.