Sunday, August 2, 2009

Psychokinetic Suite

The term psychokinesis is a term coined by Henry Holt to refer to the direct influence of mind on a physical system that cannot be entirely accounted for by the mediation of any known physical energy. Because of this definition, a lot of super powers fall under this category.
  • Telekinesis; movement of matter (micro and macro; move, lift, agitate, vibrate, spin, bend, break, or impact)
  • Speed up or slow down the naturally occurring vibrations of atoms in matter to alter temperature,possibly to the point of ignition if combustible (also known as pyrokinesis and cryokinesis respectively).
  • Teleportation (disappearing and reappearing elsewhere).
  • Phasing through matter.
  • Transmutation of matter.
  • Shape-shifting.
  • Energy shield (force field).
  • Control of magnetism.
  • Control of photons (light waves/particles).
  • Telepathic projection
Taking these individual manifestations, I think it would be neat to represent these abilities through music. Obviously there are a lot here, so it would either need to only be a select few or several short movements. Since each manifestation is unique, each movement would need to be unique, which would allow this piece to encompass all genres in a variety of ways.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bits and Pieces

This is an idea I had for a composition while brainstorming marching band show ideas. If it were a marching band show the theme would center around everyone having something to offer. I haven't worked out all the kinks yet so bear with me on this.

The premise is a series of small pieces or movements that are all part of a larger piece. This could be achieved several different ways that I have thought of so far. First, each mini piece is written for a solo or small ensemble. Each "bit" stands alone and has a varied tempo and/or style from the other "bits". I think ideally there would be six "bits" and then a culmination of them all together to make seven pieces all together. The final composite would include styles and tempos from all the "bits" and would be easily recognizable as a combination of all that came before. Because of how many "bits" there would be the duration of each would have to be limited, I would guess two minutes to be the upper limit. Each would vary in length in hopes that all six "bits" together would be no more than nine minutes. then the final composite would also be about nine minutes , eliciting a sense of balance. This would work very well in a prism concert setting as the smaller groups could memorize their parts and then perform them from any spot in an auditorium ending with the entire ensemble onstage for the composite.

Another possible approach would be to segment the band into three groups; woodwinds, percussion, and brass. Each group would then have it's own "bit" that would be no more than three minutes, to follow the same time limits as above. Again each "bit" would be unique and stand alone in style and tempo, but would make itself evident in the composite. During each of the "bits" the unique qualities of each family would be showcased.

*more to come as I think of it*

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Music To My Ears

How many times have you heard that phrase? It has almost become as overused as the popular three word phrase among lovers. But what really is music? How do you define it? There really isn't an easy answer to this question unfortunately. Music is a very personal experience. So I guess the cop-out answer is, if you think it's music then it is.

My personal opinion is that somethings that are considered music are actually musical experiments and not music. John Cage did a lot of this. His 4'33" and Imaginary Landscape No. 4, in my opinion are of this "musical experiment" nature more than actual music. Many people will disagree with me, but as I said, this is my opinion. 4'33" is not the production of sound, but a realization of the sound that exists already. Imaginary Landscape No. 4 is a chance piece that relies completely on a detailed set of instructions and twelve radios to create the piece. To me this isn't music. Music is a journey. It is the composers journey and we as listners are along for the ride. What makes music different from other art forms, is that while we are on the composers journey, it is personalized by our experiences.

One of my favorite types of 20th century music is minimalism. Many times you will have a few repeated lines that oscillate and play over and over. What makes it interesting is that as you listen you will pick out different parts of the music as you listen and you don't always pick out the same lines each time or the same lines as other people. The music is always the same, but the way we hear it is very personal and this is what makes music. I have participated in many genres of music so I can personally say that I have performed music that I didn't like, but that I still believed was music.

In my mind there is a clear line between music and not.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where does it come from?

I'm referring here to inspiration. What inspires you to write music? I think this is different for everyone when it comes to the specifics, but in general, i believe everyone is inspired by the same Yes I know it is cheesy, but think on it for a second. In an earlier post Kyle was inspired by sitting in class and listening to the idle chatter. My 'Seven Deadly Sins' piece was inspired by a day at church. But if we think about it, why was Kyle inspired by that particular class? Why did that particular sermon spark my compositional side? Kyle was in classes before where people talked. I had heard many sermons about the deadly sins before that day. So we are back to the question we started with, what inspires you to write music?

When I said it was life that inspires all of us to write music, I guess I should have been more clear, I meant our particular lives at the time of inspiration. Some of you reading this may be thinking, how is that any different? Well let me explain. I once wrote a piece for two trombones titled Hypnotism. It is a short piece that tells the story of a patient who decides to undergo hypnosis, and follows his experience. I wrote this three movement piece in three hours after going to a trombone recital. At that point in my life, I had recently acted in Bat Boy: the musical, I was practicing an unaccompanied trombone solo, I had recently found out about the piece that follows Symphonie Fantastique (Titled Lélio), and I was working with my first marching band. At the recital that night, the soloist played a performance piece where he tapped his feet and moved between lit candles while he played. Now if any of those things hadn't occured, would I have been inspired to write Hypnotism? Obviously going to the recital was the final piece of the puzzle, the catalyst if you will. But I think that had I not been inspired that night, the piece would never have been written. I believe life had created the perfect dominoe set, and that recital was the finger that tipped the first one.

Even if, when writing music, you don't have one of those 'ding' moments where it all seems clear at once, I think that the circumstances of your life determine your music. Don't take that to mean that you can only write 'happy music' when you are happy, and 'sad music' when you are sad etc... What I mean is, very simply, we shape our music out of the mold of ourselves. As composers, we may define one thing as our inspiration for a particular piece, but in retrospect, I think we are merely defining the catalyst. Jack Stamp once told the DePauw Band about how he got the name for a piece we were working on. He said he was out with a friend of his, and they stopped in front of a painting, something that was abstract. His friend turned to him and said, "Doesn't this painting just scream, "Gavorkna!" Thus the title for Stamp's minute forty-five piece was found. But why? And the answer, in my opinion, is that the music was shaped from a part of Jack Stamp, and when he heard Gavorkna, it resonated with his life at that point, for whatever reason, so it just felt right.

Your comments, as always are welcome and encouraged. I want to know what other people think. If you agree with me and can say it better, please do. If you disagree, tell me why and let talk about it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Like the Pheonix, Let This Blog Be Reborn

I haven't forgotten about this blog, but I will admit I have let it slip because I got very busy. As I look to take on a couple of arranging projects I thought we might try and reawaken this blog. I know it is being read but I have a feeling that because of the lack of posts we aren't getting responses. So I hope to be better at posting.

Anyway, I mentioned a couple arranging projects and I'd like to tell you about them. Neither is set in stone but I want to talk about them anyway. The first I would like to talk about is arrangements of smaller binary works. I am currently teaching an AP Music Theory class and we covered binary form. The students were instructed to develop a sixteen bar binary piece and given parameters to work their creativity in. At the end we had a group listening of all the pieces and I must admit...I was impressed by many of the compositions. For the most part, the students used piano and a solo voice as it made the project easier, but when I heard some of them I wasn't hearing their piece, I started to hear a bit of what the piece could be. So I am planning to pick out two or three to start with and asking the student's permission to arrange these rather simple pieces into something a little bigger. I have heard several groups of instrumentation in listening to the student's work, everything from symphony orchestra to duets and I would like to do two contrasting pieces.

The other project is a little bigger and also more exciting in my mind. I have recently become acquainted with a piece titled "Serai" on a CD of the same name by ARZ. The CD is described thusly, "Eclectic instrumental progressive rock that blends elements of metal, classical, and world music into sonic tales embodying literary and spiritual themes." (Taken from the CD Baby Website) I first heard an arrangement of this for winter drumline and thought it enjoyable but nothing special to my ear. Then I heard the original and definitely liked it better but still didn't think much of it. It wasn't until a couple days ago that I started to hear something more than the piece itself. It started to come to me the way music comes to me any time I compose, I heard one section very clearly in my mind as, in this case, a symphony orchestra.

At first I tried to dismiss the idea, because I am so busy right now and because while I heard that one section clearly, my mind hadn't yet started to wrap around the rest of the piece. The difference between writing original music and arranging music is that with original music the idea must be fostered and nurtured or it dies, but it also must be kept separate from other ideas lest they start to blend together. With arranging music, you have the original music there and it has a tendency to fester in your mind and not let go. So I constantly found my mind wandering back to the piece and other parts of the piece began to take shape in this new medium my mind had chosen. Still I resisted because there were places I just could figure out how to make work. It wasn't until I was riding my bike and listening to the piece that I finally gave in. While I was riding I was trying to talk myself out of this crazy notion of arranging this piece by imagining the ISO (Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra) trying to play it. At that point the music hit a guitar solo-esque passage and I got this image very clear of the symphony orchestra as I have always seen it on stage, but also three platforms raised around the orchestra, one stage left, one stage right, and one upstage center...all three platforms under intense spots from directly above. On the stage left platform stood an electric bassist, stage right stood and electric guitarist, and upstage center sat a drum set player. Suddenly I couldn't fight the idea anymore

This image drove me to find the website of this group, ARZ. When I found it I began reading about this and found out that ARZ was originally supposed to be a band like any other....but as they worked they found that that genre too limiting. My desire to do this arranging was cemented by this passage found on the ARZ's site:

"As the project matured I realized that I wanted to pursue music that held no categorical
boundaries as far as instrumentation and style was concerned; I didn’t want to compromise." -Steve Adams, Guitarist

This passage speaks to me because it is also the way I feel about music. So I found the contact page on the website and sent a short little email requesting info about the channels I would need to go through to arrange "Serai." I recieved an email that same day from Steve Adams himself asking for more information. Obviously I have become more and more excited about this project and I hope to bring this to fruition.

So that is what is on my plate as of right now. I may have a future arranging job come winter 2008 because I have been working with a show choir back up band and in talking with the choir director I found she isn't terribly happy with her current arranger. I offered to do it for her next year and she seemed very excited by that idea and seemed pretty likely to contract me next year.

Again, sorry for the long lag in posting. anyone that visits this blog is more than welcome to comment on anything they want. I started this blog because I think music is better when done together, and in my experience the more people that provide input the better something is because it then not only becomes an expression of one person, but of many, thus making it more open to interpretation. Here's to a successful restart.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

One Year Later...

So a lot of time has passed since the last post was put up. To be honest I forgot all about the blog and I doubt that many people check it as it hasn't changed in over a year. But I'm going to give it a go and see if some people start reading... of course I say that now, but who knows if thats true.

I would like to stress that "A Musical Dialogue" is not an example of the music I usually write. I am a tonal composer and a traditionalist in many ways, I am not really into the avante garde style. My music is influenced heavily by composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Wagner, Grainger, Copland, Bernstein, and Philip Glass (I know an oddity amongst those others). If anybody is interested in my creative talents there is a comercial on youtube which features an original 30 second score by yours truly! Simply go to youtube and do a search for "aquafresh keith jackson" or some variant on "keith jackson" "aquafresh" or "hivemind studios" and you will come across it. I hope you all enjoy!


Friday, December 22, 2006

'Seven Deadly Sins'

I have been playing with this idea for a while now....but I think I finally found a way to do it. I want to write a piece for orchestra called "Seven Deadly Sins." And I want to give each sin a theme. Originally I thought it would have to be done in seven short movements, but I'm thinking I can do it in four. I just have to tell a story.

So I'm going to create a character and he will be influenced by the various demons associated with each deadly sin. In first three movements he will maliciously perform each of the deadly sins, and in the final movement, he will face judgement day, and he will be tormented by the sins he did commit while the demons laugh. The last movement should be a fast paced, complex, multi-tonal mix of all the sin's themes. Each theme will surface for a bit the be replaced by another until two and three themes are going at once.......and finally they will all be going together, expressing the eternal torment of this character.

So no one has to go looking for are the seven deadly sins and associated demons:
luxuria ( lust, Asmodeus), gula (gluttony, Beelzebub), avaritia (avarice/greed, Mammon), acedia (sloth, Belphegor), ira (wrath, Satan), invidia (envy, Leviathan), and superbia (pride/hubris, Lucifer).

Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome.