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Fragile Beauty, No. 5: What is a True Dichotomy in Music?

In planning my 2019 project ideas I had made the decision to move in the direction of showcasing my big band compositions and arrangements, my writing for a 17 piece band. From here I felt that I wanted to then create a project that went in an entirely different direction. The direction I chose was to create a series based on the Seasons focusing on the player being the most exposed, as in the performance of solo works. These solo works would have a foundation, a foundation using an electric/ambient setting, therefore creating a further dichotomy of the big band in its organic, acoustic setting and the Seasons series in a more electric setting. I had originally planned to present the big band performances throughout 2019 with The Seasons pieces premiered in 2020; however I began to feel that I wanted to really expose this dichotomy in a more dramatic way. I came to the conclusion that I would release both groups of compositions throughout 2019. The Seasons series would be presented on the first date of the new season (December 2018, March, June and September 2019) and the big band compositions on the other months (January, February, April, May, July, August, October, November and December 2019).

To have a better understanding on my approach to the Seasons compositions, please read from the program notes of The Seasons series:

Prior to the release of my album, Connections in 2018, I began to re-examine my music, both in terms of my playing and in my writing. As part of this re-examination, I took a moment to ask myself if there were any styles or concepts that I wish I had pursued further. In 1985/86, I composed my “Suite for Jazz Quintet” which received a grant from the Seattle Arts Commission. This suite was my first work to be in a more electric, ambient style. Written for three keyboards, drum machine, prepared sounds, Clevinger bass, electric guitar in coordination with the organic sounds of the trumpet, flugelhorn, alto, tenor and soprano saxes and flute, drums and percussion. Once this piece was completed, I returned to this style of writing only two more times, on the composition “Coast to Coast” on the 1987 album of the same name and in 1988 the composition “Twilight” from the album, Flip of the Coin. Go here to listen to the full Suite for Jazz Quintet & the compositions Coast to Coast and Twilight.

I felt it was time to return and explore this concept further; however this time I would approach it from a different perspective. I wanted to maintain that electric, ambient texture, but this time in a more minimalistic style and I chose an unusual configuration to get this across (unusual for me, I guess). I made the decision that these pieces would be for solo trumpet accompanied by what I call ‘prepared settings for improvisation’ using GarageBand.

My hope was to create as true a dichotomy as possible - acoustic/electric, large ensemble/the solo artist, advanced composition & arranging techniques/complete simplification and minimalization, presenting both series on alternating months to highlight these variances.

As of this date I have released the first of the Seasons movements, Winter in 2018 and the first of the big band arrangements in January 2019. Please go here to watch/listen:

Winter

Chick's Tune

In February I will be releasing the second of my big band arrangements, a composition by Jim Hall called Walk Soft from his album Commitment with Art Farmer as performed once again by the Jazz Police Big Band from Seattle, WA under the direction of James Rasmussen. To hear about the upcoming release dates for both of these projects, go to my website, billstevensmusic.com and subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Bill Stevens Artist, Composer, Educator

Itinerary

  • May 5, 2019
    Tomi Jazz, New York, NY
     
  • June 2, 2019
    Tomi Jazz, New York, NY
     

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