Trees Grow Long and Thoughts Go On

An original composition written for two marimbas, vibraphone, and improvising saxophone (with effects).

It is my intention to present a much less formal and more (hopefully) interesting version of my program notes.

*Very large dynamic range mostly due to my inability to control properly the volume of my rig. Be warned.

Trees Grow Long and Thought Goes On is a composition and a series of three haiku. They go together. Each movement of the piece is accompanied by a haiku and the haiku represent a vague and wishy-washy frame of reference to my state of mind during the final weeks of my life in Athens, Ohio.

The compositional process was derived from (sometimes with a stretch) the “vibe” of the accompanying haiku and the general structure of haiku (5-7-5).

“Thought on Thinking”  (0:00 ~ 5:10ish)
Thought is slow, tangled/movement in repetition/Like wind blows and blows

In the first movement, I utilized a compositional technique (not unique) that gives each player a single line of music that is to repeat, and at his/her whim, slowly move to the next section. These different sections consist of the same basic intervallic material, but with a change in “mode”. This gives each mode some vagueness because sometimes, there might be two or even three happening simultaneously, within the ensemble.

Programmatically, each line is meant to represent a single thought of sorts, but it gets clouded when all three thoughts are happening at once. Additionally, a continuous stream of thought (saxophone) is highlighting certain things at certain times as it improvises throughout. The direction I applied to the improvisation was to think about the accompaniment being the “lead sheet” of the piece, and I was simultaneously playing the improvisation as the “development” both with and against the “melody”.

“Breath and Breathing”
We all share breath and/breathing; and we’re together;/and we’re connected.

The second movement uses the idea of breath to set tempo. I stole this approach from Robert Holiday in a piece called “Breath Piece” that I heard when he was performing with Septikk (also featuring Dan DiPiero if my memory serves).

Each player’s breath represents four quarter notes (that is one full in/out breath cycle) and may ebb and flow throughout the movement. The musical material in the accompaniment has been given (somewhat not arbitrarily) a value, 1-5 that correspond to the harmonic intervals created by the “mode”. The process is only important because I spent (most likely) too much time on it and it is what makes up the “haiku” for which this system was created. For instance, a small interval like a 2nd might be given a value like 1 and a 5th a 4 or 5. Since a haiku “sentence” is either 5 or 7, I used the values of these intervals to create musical haiku for each line.

The saxophone is continually improvising through the modes as they change beneath. I used the idea of breath to (mostly) improvise lines within a normal breath length. Obviously as it develops, the “theme” is moved away from it.

Good Mornings
Wake and choose the world./We have sunrise, big and bright;/and building from there.

The second movement uses a haiku structure through rhythm to create the musical material. This movement, for solo saxophone, utilizes a loop pedal to play both the harmony and melody of the first line as well as the third line of the musical haiku. The second line is repeated only with delay and reverb effects.

Also, I (Amy, my lady friend) passed foil balls out to the audience and the opened them during this movement. This is a programmatic element that I sort of meant to symbolize morning.

I hope you enjoy. I really only wanted to, for myself, write out what I think I was thinking. Also, here are the program notes from my recital:

“Trees Grow Long and Thoughts Go On” uses three haiku as inspiration, each meant to emulate its title. Using a different version of the same repetitive process, each movement has two different layers being played simultaneously, the first being accompaniment (mallets, excluding the final movement) and the second, improvisation; like a tune and the improvisation happening simultaneously.

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Trees Grow Long and Thoughts Go On

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