Welcome to my website, Bill Stevens Music. From the menu tab above you can find information about my music and the groups I perform with including my calendar, as well as checking out my current and past projects. You can read my blog, Fragile Beauty or check out my pedagogy page and much more. At the bottom of this page you can sign up to receive my newsletter and a button to follow me on Spotify, SoundCloud and Bandcamp. If you might be interested in more information including the booking of one of my groups you can reach out to me through my contacts page. Thanks for visiting and I hope to hear from you.
2024 Event Series...
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had begun an intensive study of modern, 20th Century composers specifically John Cage and the four minimalists - Steve Reich, Philip Glass, LaMonte Young and Terry Riley. Additionally, I read a series of books by David Toop, Mark Fell and Alan Licht, among others and began to look at the use of Field Recordings in my music.
I was interested in looking at ways to acquire more freedom in my compositional process, not moving from Jazz per se, but to incorporate new sounds, techniques, sources and colors into my writing and playing. This period of my music became highly experimental with plenty of risk-taking.
Binary Systems is the first experimental work in this series. Binaries are social constructs composed of parts that are framed as absolute and unchanging opposites. Binary opposition is a key concept of structuralism. As the basis of this composition, I used the structural formulations of the artist Paul Klee from his Pedagogical Sketchbook written in 1923. The composition was assembled as a sound collage using material from my recorded collection spanning from 1983 through 2021 where players were recorded in an acapella setting as part of a specific original composition. This setting was then cut, pasted and paired with other recorded examples to create a series of solos, duets and trio settings that incorporated the musical equivalent of an active line, or an active line with fixed points all resulting in the union of two or more parts. The settings were created without regard to tempo, key, style or any fixed element of music. What was conceived as structuring binary opposites actually explored the gray area between the combinations of musicians and what can result from those perceived differences.
Binary Systems is one connected composition in seven movements as seen below…
Jay Bianchi, keyboard 2012
Peter Allen, electric bass 1983
II. An Active Line
Don Dietrich, drums 1988
Corey Larson, guitar 2019
Bob Cesari, tenor sax 2020
Charlie Gushee, tenor sax 2019
Jeff Carney, upright bass 2012
Daryl Pugh, upright bass 1983
Elliot Honig, piano 2019
IV. An Active Line with Fixed Points
Ben Gramm, drums 2012
Luca Rosenfeld, upright bass 2017
Gary Fogel, drums 2017
Richard Philbin, tenor sax 2017
Eric Peters, drums 2005
V. Three Conjugations
Paul Pricer, upright bass 2019
Jimmy Johns, drums 1983
Steve Yamasaki, soprano sax 1988
Rich Russo, upright bass 2019
VI. Trio 2
Sean Moran, guitar 2018
Rosdeli Marte, voice 2018
Phil Owens, guitar 2020
VII. Trio 3 - Structure
Luca Rosenfeld, upright bass 2017, 2018
Gary Fogel, drums 2013, 2017, 2019
Bill Stevens, trumpet with effects 2021
The Lecture on Nothing was written by Cage as a musical composition. In recitation with the cellist Francis Marie-Uitti, I had originally placed my solo trumpet into the piece to create areas of color and dynamic emotion as the lecture is recited; however in 2023 I did something that I rarely do, I revised the arrangement with a new group. I have always believed that each of my compositions acted as a place in time, a marker on my musical journey. This new chamber group was assembled in discussions between myself and Ken Lieberson, a composer and bassoonist and with the addition of Steve Wylie also a composer and cellist to perform new trio compositions. For me, it was an opportunity to work with the trio on developing guided improvisations.
During the Lecture you will hear the group in solo, duo and trio improvisational settings. Additionally, through the use of Logic Pro, I have resurrected two of my chamber compositions dating from my time in Seattle from 1987 - 88. The first, my String Quartet No. 1 followed by the Music for Brass Quintet in three movements. Ken Lieberson contributed his Trio in d minor (after Bach’s Second Suite) which segues into a trio improvisation that maintains the style of Ken’s work.
Unfinished Journey continues this study of contemporary experimental music as I searched to find vehicles for my writing and improvisations. I came across the composer, David Dunn and specifically his work, Place. Place is a seven hour environmental piece where electronics record and play back ambient sounds, voices and instruments that trigger acoustic resonances in the local environment.
The first steps to creating my composition, I recorded some nature sounds from Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, FL., of birds chirping, cicadas, the wind rustling through the trees, water among others. I then made a series of city field recordings such as rain, thunder, traffic, car horns, subway sounds, people speaking, dogs barking, etc… from my home in New York City.
Many of these sounds I kept in their natural setting, but I also repurposed, de-contextualized the sounds using Audacity to mask the original environmental or city field recording. Once I had a series of workable sounds I began to place them into Audacity to create a setting or foundation that I would improvise over. The result is a three movement work called Unfinished Journey. The piece is performed as a whisper - quiet, light with exaggerated use of silence as part of the composition. The sounds enter from silence and return to silence.
Continuing with this experimental period, I became fascinated once again with the Chris Marker film from 1962, La Jetee and I saw another opportunity to create a musical setting for the film; however for this project I wanted to create new music for the film itself and I wanted the music to be of a more electro-ambient nature incorporating a series of field recordings and extended techniques on my trumpet. I attached this to a narration that was recorded by Brainard Carey. The final element was working my horn into the mix to create another color to enhance the emotional content. Through the use of extended techniques on my trumpet played through both a delay and harmonizer pedals I was able to create a sense of tension that is finally released during the closing melodic loop for the movie.
The final experimental piece was written for an open call by CTM - Berlin for use at the ISIM Festival in January 2020 on a theme of Liminal Phenomena. The work I presented spoke to the state of American foreign relations with Europe under the Presidency of Donald Trump that I called It's Only Fiction Until it Happens.
I used a radio podcast from the BBC called “America’s Friends” and by distorting and manipulating much of the dialogue using Audacity that at times you hear the message clearly; however more often than not the message has difficulty coming through. We tend to ignore what we cannot make out no matter how much we try to make sense of what is being said and why.
I layered additional sounds upon this foundation through the use of GarageBand to create sections of heightened tension and release. I also added sections of improvisation using electronics on my trumpet to manipulate and layer sounds even further allowing for the original message to become more densely decontextualized. In live performance, the piece is played in total darkness except for a light directly above me while I add a second layer of electronic trumpet improvisation.
These five works are also some of my longest durational pieces. I am excited to share them with you at this time and hope that you will take the time to have a listen and as always, I look forward to hearing from you to get your thoughts and reactions to this new music.