Week 32 – Surface Tension

This week’s video is once again the product of some recent inspirations that have been working their way into both my writing and my playing — everything from playing Terry Riley with Third Angle to playing Damian Erskine’s music for his upcoming CD release.

The piece starts with a simple piano motif in 5/4.  The motif varies slightly through the written sections of the piece, but stays fairly static — something that serves a roots for the piece while the tenor melody floats on top.  In a larger group setting, I’d love to hear the piano part be accompanied by some sort of constant-8th note percussion, like tabla.

The tenor melody is made up of simple melodic fragments that use rhythms like triplets and groups of 4 over 3 to, like I mentioned before, float above the piano part without being too firmly rooted with the 8th-note motion below it.  Thus, the title: “Surface Tension.”

The solo section breaks away from the piano motif set up at the beginning and brings the piece down to a much more simple and sparse feeling.  Clay builds intensity in his solo until he cues on to the sax solo, which continues to build rather than coming down and starting another melodic arc.  Eventually, the last melodic section is cued and one by one, tenor parts are added until the melody is being played in four part harmony.

Clay and I have been experimenting recently with overdubbing woodwind parts to achieve different colors.  You can hear that in last week’s Twenty Seven where I wrote for a combination of saxes and melodica and you’ll hear it in an upcoming piece of Clays as well that involves an interesting combination of soprano sax, flute, tenor sax, and bass clarinet.  For Surface Tension, I took a different route – instead of layering different woodwinds to provide a new color, I choose to overdub four of the same instrument — the sound of one player being overdubbed against themselves (rather than a section of four different tenor players) was a color that I wanted to explore for this piece.  I’ve been hooked on the sound ever since hearing Brecker use that effect on early Steps Ahead records.

As usual, you can check out the score by downloading the sheet music below.

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