The Crash Is Coming

By | Film Music, New Pieces | No Comments

Recently, there has been a couple of films, subject matter both grim, that had as a supporting roll, the boundless North American rural landscape. I am of course talking about The Revenant and The Hateful Eight. What is it about vast grand, empty visual space that can evoke both, contrasting, sensations of freedom, awe and a sense of impending doom? Does space/silence in music contain similar affecting qualities?

I am lucky to often travel the AC 7 flight, leaving Vancouver for Hong Kong at 12:10PM, where it then heads north along the coast of Canada up towards the Bering Straight, where it curves, and comes down along the coast of Asia. The redeeming quality of this prolonged bout of air travel, is that it remains in daylight for the entirety of the journey. While the cabin lights get turned off, and the window shades dropped, I can’t help but lift the shade up for a peak every five minutes, often being hypnotized and starring out to the most spectacular, remote, daunting, yet pleasing, visions of the enormity of our planet. Or conversely, the minute nature of our person. In particular, once passed the Bering Straight, and heading due south, the view becomes an otherworldly almost interstellar landscape that only few (those who take a specific flight, departing at a specific time, with optimal no-clouds weather conditions) will ever witness.

Yesterday, I discussed with some friends, the good-old conundrum of the finite-infinite debate of the Universe. I mentioned how as a young boy, the thought of infinite space scared the hell out of me, yet again, filled me with excitement and energy without compare.

So, again, does musical space contain the characteristics of free-falling joy and relative insignificance?

This piece, while intimate, and scored for small ensemble, meditates on some of these ideas.

The Crash Is Coming, for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Clarinet, Crotales, and Glock. If you would like to read along with the score, click HERE.

And is dedicated to my dear friend Cheng Pui Mei.

Listen to it HERE

Set Juleus

By | New Pieces, Words | No Comments

As mentioned in a previous post, I bought Native Instruments’ Maschine hardware/software combo. I’m having a blast. Although I think I’m trying to squeeze out of it different things than it’s primary directive, I do love every knob, dial and pad.

I was searching for some sound-wise, left-field add-ons to it (which there are a plethora), and I came across the company Sound DustI bought some wonderful samples from them, and struck up a conversation with a fella whom I presume is the owner and main workhorse behind the products. His name is Pendle Poucher and is a great music man himself. Check him out. Great chats ensued, and he asked if I would l beta-test one of his soon to be released virtual instruments. Of course!! I was thrilled.

I have, for a while (and I am not alone in this by any means) found a wonderful correlation in the perception and experience of pre-tonal era music, and that of psychedelic and ambient music. A little while ago I began trying to strip down the canons and complexities that can arise in some pre-tonal era vocal music. Not by any sophisticated means mind you, simply by way of augmentation of time, so that as notes would hold longer, the mechanisms of the talented Renaissance composers influencing me would become, less evident. Essentially, I wanted to write a meandering piece. To hell with narrative and purpose. How great it is to meander sometimes with no intent. I intended this to be for a collection of string instruments, but as the gracious offer from Sound Dust presented itself, I took on the task of using only this virtual instrument.

Set Juleus. And check out Sound Dust. The guy works super hard, has a great ear and taste, and produces super cool stuff. Go support!

Not for the ADD set, but maybe created by one.

the first and last

By | Words | No Comments

I recently bought a swanky piece of new hardware, Maschine, made by the German company Native Instruments. It’s aimed at the beat-making demographic, that is to say hip-hop and electronic dance music and their derivatives. I found Hip-hop somewhere in the year of 1986, or 1987, who’s to say really. The thing was, I remember it being the first music that I could probably say I loved and knew about. I could talk about it with all the authority a grade 7 kid could muster, and it made me feel smart to say that  I knew who the big players were, that I could recite some obscure verse off an obscure track from an obscure artist. It made me feel special to go to the one record store in Vancouver that would carry, not just the explicit material, but also just albums with such limited release that somehow, with the store owner’s ear firmly level to the thumping ground, would advise me on what the hot new record to arrive was going to be. I’d buy it with out question and with a little help from Rap Pages magazine, I’d hit the source. The store was Odyssey Imports in Vancouver, long gone now, probably a sushi shop. I at least hope it’s a good sushi place and imports nasty dirty fish, and fat rice. As I grew as a musician/guitarist, I veered away from Rap, and searched, as a young one does, for the most obvious and easily digestible inspiration and influence. Guitar music took over. And so ended my passionate love affair with Hip-Hop. Not because I didn’t love her anymore, simply because there was someone more my style, someone who was doing what I was doing. It is a sad fact of life that complacency and “been there done that” can ruin a healthy relationship. We had a few flings that were always good and we could return to (see: Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, De La Soul)

Here I arrive again, buying a piece of musical hardware aimed at musicians in the camp that I left so long ago. I’m not looking to produce hip-hop, but something about the nature of this instrument, and the workflow, and the idea of making ‘beats’ even though I’m probably going to try and compose a Renaissance choral piece with it, evokes a sense of comfort and a return to a well-spring. As if, and I wonder, 20 something years later, have I been trying to play in jazz bands, experimental art rock, composing contemporary classical, all with a hidden voice of influence in my head? Stylistic variances in process, of course, occur throughout the infinite genres and sub genres of the musical art. So do similarities though. But I think it is safe to assume, and state, that a contemporary neo-classicist, influenced, and trying to write like Stravinsky, approaches the composition table from a different angle than an artist who looks towards Ice-T as an essential master of the genre. So this is what I find so interesting about this new piece of hardware, and my surprising enthusiasm, enjoyment and mothers milk relationship I feel to it; Have I, all this time, been unconsciously trying to write Hip-Hop in disguise?

© Alex Formosa