Like It’s 1994/95: Uhuru

A recurring introspective retrospective of my music as it sounded twenty years earlier. In early 1994, I took my first trip to Europe, spending a week in Lyon where my music was heard at a university dance festival as well as in the subway for a pop up freestyle contemporary dance event. I spent the latter part of the year working on the indie cassette release Uhuru, which would come out the following spring, and playing keyboards and percussion in a post-punk band. In early 1995, another dance score was heard in London. In late 1995, I began graduate studies at York University, returning nine years after I had first arrived as an undergraduate.

Throughout this period, I continued to hold down a full time retail job selling classical and jazz CDs in Yorkville, as well as freelancing as a composer for dance and theatre. I also got my first taste of hosting college radio. It was my most active period being involved in music in general.

November 1994 rec. February 1995. 8 voices (2 per part), 8 track reel-to-reel. Begins with a row on the seven pitches of the diatonic scale. The pronunciation of uhuru was conflated with “yoo hoo” although I now prefer the proper initial “u” sound. This is life before autotune, for better or worse. Photo: handwritten score excerpt, 1995

Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2014

Kenza, for piano

Today is the second birthday of my second child Kenza, firstborn to my wife Nehal El-Hadi. Just before her birth, I wrote a short three-movement work for piano dedicated to her.

Like the work written for her older sister Remi, the music here is diatonic, in the key of C major/A minor throughout. I work with simple forms and materials to create something that is both childlike and abstract.

“Fourths + Fifths” is structured around a sequence of six diatonic modes, each associated with a melodic pattern. Each pattern is built up from a single arpeggio into a homophonic canon by layering the pattern against copies of itself with different starting points or octaves, although this process is only made clear with the first pattern. The intervals of the fourth and fifth predominate both melodically and harmonically throughout.

“Moon” builds the texture once again from a single line to homophony, harmonizing a melodic fragment with chord clusters and a descending bassline. The second section expands the bassline by one note and replaces the earlier chords with arpeggios. The title refers to Kenza’s favourite single-word expression of wonderment.

“Golden” is dated “12 12 12” and like the first movement features a sequence of six modes. Here, a twelve-note pattern is played against pedal notes in the bass and treble, varying with each change of harmony. The pattern comes from my kalimba piece Lonely Little Boat, and is in this way an expression of continuity. The title refers to my wife’s nickname for me, as well as my daughter’s first and middle names Kenza Aurélie, which translate in Arabic and French respectively as “treasure” and “golden.”

Happy birthday, dear Za!

Composed 2012
Recorded 2013-2014, Roland digital piano direct to file

Photos by Nehal El-Hadi

Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2014