Thursday, December 01, 2005

'Tis the Season

All right, the NEC application is in the mail. For the audition CD I had to include two tunes with a total length less than eight minutes. The first tune had to be a recomposition of an existing melody and the second tune could be just about anything. I chose God Bless America, by Irving Berlin as my recomposed melody and I used an original composition for my second tune. God Bless America starts with a reharm of the first part of the chorus and then moves into a vamp built from the melody notes of the chorus. The introduction of the solo begins with the second melodic part of the chorus and then continues with improvisation over the vamp. The solo ends with a reinterpretation of the first melody (played in 6/8) and the outro is the traditional opening verse of the tune. The original composition is an untitled piece I wrote early this year. I’d had forgotten that I had written the tune until I was fiddling around one day and it popped back into my memory. It’s a simple piece with the intro featuring a mostly chromatic descending bass line. The main melody quite simple and sets up the vamp. The solo section uses a percussive and Eastern/African sound towards the end. In both tunes I uses the loop station to set up and repeat the vamp.

I’m not totally happy or impressed with the two selections, but I’m not surprised to feel that way. From my experience it was a great lot of fun and excitement to record these two tunes. I haven’t done something like this in a long time. The past five years have been primarily me doing Solo Guitar improvisations. Just this year I’ve been able to use the loop station more effectively and move to a more "lead guitar" position. I was occasionally deeply satisfied and enamored with some of my takes, but as a whole no one take captured everything I was looking for. It seems I still have a hard time recording for myself. Live performances capture me best. I can imagine even having an engineer in the room might bring more out of me. I don’t always feel the high-stakes when recording at home. I get a little complacent and sometimes I lose my focus or purpose. All in all, it’s an honest recording. It may not be the best for a application CD, but that’s not for me to decide.

My focus right now, until February is to gear up for the second part of the NEC application process. I’ll have an ear test and a melody to memorize. I’m going to work with Tim to see about what’s the best way to approach this. I imagine he’ll say "transcribe and single string exercises."
Right now I’m working on some drop-twoish triad voicings that Tim gave me. They are quite interesting and remind me of his sound as well as Dennis Cahill’s. It’s been taking me a little while to get it under my fingers. Since joining the Gamelan ensemble I feel I’ve been able to incorporate more patience into my practicing. Watching others and experiencing myself the process of learning Balinese music with the group has changed the way I look at my own progress as well as how I work with my students.

In the next couple of weeks I’d like to adopt a shorthand for this journal. The idea of documenting all of my feelings every night seems a little daunting. Stay tuned….

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