Over the last couple years of studying classical music, I have discovered a passion for creating my own music. This has evolved into a passion that I am pursuing with the release of my first album, “Gradient”.
It is a collection of seven piano compositions. While each are unique, they fit within a theme. I hope to extract an emotional connection from the listener to these tunes and interact with them uniquely in their own life.
Liner notes below:
Gradient is the title track of the album. Gradient is defined as “an increase or decrease in the magnitude of a property observed in passing from one point or moment to another”. When applied to sound, this exemplifies what this composition and album is. A friend used the word gradient to describe the Kansas City night sky as it transitions from the prettiest of blues to a dark haze of black. The day gradually lends itself to dusk and dawn always returns to light, even in the darkest of nights. You will notice there is a common gradual increase and decrease in the “flow” of the music, simulating the gradual change that we often see in our lives and stories through the years. Hope can gradually transition to despair, and conversely despair will transition to hope, love and joy. Music is a powerful medium to provoke hope from even the darkest of doubts.
A lot of the harmonies, rhythm and melodic content are ambiguous; the form of the composition has a gradual transition and unfurling of forward progression. The same content morphs and gradually expands rhythmically and sonically to climax finally to the first occurrence of real tonality. Life is no stranger to ambiguity and transitions; rhythms carry us through gradual transitions…..
Creativity, if we let it, can stem from heartbreak and produce beauty. This composition embodies that in my life, heartbreak producing art. As cliché as it may be, there is no ignoring its influence in our culture. Much like the previous track, this composition does not reach its major tonality until later in the piece. The original sketch did not contain the hopeful, rejoicing arrival at the end; it was added more than a year later. Healing can take time, as it did for the inspiration of this composition. This joyful arrival at the major tonality exemplifies the growth and perspective I gained from heartbreak: there is always hope. (even if it takes years)
I am often asked the inspiration for the name Pyramid Lung. One early listener described the piece as a progression of layers, building to a point, following the rhythm of his breath. Hence, the name, Pyramid Lung.
Birth and Death of a Dream
The thought that comes to mind when playing and listening to this tune is a long journey through sunrises and sunsets. The track bookends the journey with the same melody at the end as in the beginning. As the piece progresses, the simple melody migrates to greater complexity, reflecting the nature of relationships as we grow: a togetherness that draws us into something bigger than ourselves with people we love. We are created as relational people and our greatest fulfillment occurs acting collectively as a whole. There is more power in togetherness, there is more love in togetherness, there is more joy in togetherness. The world can change with togetherness. Togetherness elicits a selfless desire for good, in a bond with people who share a vision to create a better world.
Togetherness does not come easy; I like to utilize and play with the relationship of dissonance and consonance. You will hear this in the melody’s relationship to the harmony. On the downbeats, the melody notes do not match immediately with the harmony. This provides a clash to lend itself to a greater satisfaction of consonance when the melody notes finally rejoin the harmonies. The satisfaction of togetherness in relationship is mutual to the satisfaction of consonance in music, and made all the greater when not immediate.
This composition was inspired by the tragic bombing in Nice, France in summer of 2016. Modern American society has become numb to tragedy due to our unaffected relation to it. David Zach, my cousin, of Remedy Drive has been one of the biggest inspirations in my life. He views the role of religion and art through a “sphere of influence” that each and every one of us has. Music has been and continues to be one of my biggest spheres of influence. While I’m not sure I can change the world, creating music in the face of horrific tragedy is my intuitive response. This piece embodies the images, thoughts, and pain felt from this event. While I did not experience the bombing myself, how much more pain did it produced to those people directly affected by it? Furthermore, we may fear an attack as they become more common; I fear losing empathy for individuals affected by these increasing attacks. I believe empathy towards situations and people who are different is imperative and the foundation to tearing away fear, hate, and judgment.
Music unites us. Whether we are weird, difficult, awkward, lonely or afraid, music is the same language to every ear and serves as a medium to create opportunity to come together. The rhythmic augmentation in this track is similar to “Gradient”. You will hear the rhythm transition from eighth notes to sixteenths then to sixteenth triplets. This naturally moves the music motion forward with the same thematic material being used.
This track juxtaposes the previous track “Unwanted Tears” due to the aural comfort and sonic “hug” it produces. There is comfort but also a yearning quality that gives way to a heroic melody. A large influence is German composer, Nils Frahm. One of the characteristics in his music is his use of perpetual rhythm. Utilized in this composition, it keeps the music in a rain-like flow throughout that abruptly halts in the end. The same concept of dissonance and consonance that is heard on “Birth and Death of a Dream” is used in this track.
Composing alone is fulfilling. However, I believe art reaches full potential with collaboration. Many people have influenced my music, but this song is the result of an incredibly fulfilling collaboration. An incredible musician improvised with me on electric guitar while I played piano. I implemented some of the themes and derived it into a solo piano piece. When more than one mind creates, art flourishes and amplifies the joy it brings.
As with most of the tracks on this album, the material in Liquid Mirror repeats throughout and the rhythm is gradually expanded: giving it repetition, build, and also variety. It leads to a point of climax when the melody expands upward to a point of triumph. The momentum dissipates and comes down to a simplified occurrence of the main theme.
Reverse the River
A friend proposed this title and I became thrilled with how appropriately it fits the composition. The music brings a mental picture of tides changing, currents shifting. Pulling off this composition was difficult in that there are two melodic ideas layered on top of each other in the climax of this piece.
In conclusion, I hope these tunes can reach you, wherever you are; I hope they can provide a glimpse of hope, beauty and inspiration. If you have made it this far reading, thank you very much for not only listening but taking the time to hear my thoughts as well. I am incredibly grateful and humbled that you have listened to my music.