From the lair of Bearthoven
It was such a pleasure to collaborate recently with Bearthoven. I wrote these four trios last fall, thrilled at the opportunity to write rhythmically and formally adventurous music for the combination of piano, double bass, and drum set. The group just posted this live recording, from the premiere at New Amsterdam Records on 22 April.
Bearthoven is pianist Karl Larson, bassist Pat Swoboda, and percussionist Matt Evans. You may know these gents from their other ear-ravaging musical projects, including Color Field Ensemble (Karl), Gutbucket (Pat), and TIGUE (Matt). Check out Bearthoven's Soundcloud for more of their recent recordings.
My notes on the Four Trios are below.
This introduction is built on a 3+5+7 cycle of sixteenth notes, totaling a meter of 15/16. The bass sets the meter, playing eventually on each of its open strings, while the drums gradually fill in the spaces until every sixteenth is being played and the cycle is complete.
I found the 3+5+7 pattern in a book called Rhythmajik, by the shamanic musician Z'EV, and one of its meanings is "to protect" or "to surround." The repetition of this cycle opens a space for the rest of the piece, like making camp in a forest, or setting the table for a meal.
2. December 8th
This trio is built from an improvisation I recorded at the piano in my Chicago apartment on December 8, 2011. After transcribing the improvisation from the recording, I changed very little of its musical material or form, but simply used the trio instrumentation to fill out its textures.
3. The Speculist
Sometime in the spring of 2012 I imagined two chords, scrawled them on a sheet of staff paper, and wrote "The Speculist" at the top. I suppose it means a person who makes mirrors. This piece of paper sat on my piano for a year and a half until the chords found an outlet. They appear in the piano and form the backbone of this short, reflective movement.
"Highlands" is the last track on Bob Dylan's 1997 album Time Out of Mind. At sixteen and a half minutes, it is thought to be Dylan's longest song. The lyrics commence with pastoral imagery and bluesy laments, but then, after seven verses, a strange thing happens. The lyrical logic takes a sharp left turn, and Dylan begins to tell a story. He is at a restaurant in Boston, having an awkward conversation with a waitress. This goes on for seven verses, full of dialogue. In the seventh, the narrator leaves the restaurant and steps out to the street. And the next verse begins again with "My heart's in the Highlands"--the lyrics have returned to their original tone, and they maintain it for the final six verses. It is unclear what happened to our narrator or to Boston, or what any of it has to do with the Highlands imagery of flowers, hills and horses that we get in the outer sections.
Legend has it that this recording was a first take by Dylan and the studio band. After they finished, one of the managers asked if there was a short version of the song. "That was the short version," Dylan said.
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