It’s a review of Marc-André Hamelin’s performance of Morton Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus at the 21C Music Festival in May. Have a look and let me know what you think!
This is based on Táta Vega’s 1978 cover of the song by Ned Doheny, played downtempo. It is for multiple pianos and combines elements of contemporary classical, jazz and popular dance music. The track could serve as a demo for a live performance, or for a studio recording with acoustic pianos.
The first two pianos, the bassline and main chordal part, were recorded in an evening as a last minute favour for a producer friend. An additional three pianos – lead/solo, second bass/chord and repeating patterns – were added over the next several evenings. A notated version would condense the music to four pianos (score pending).
The piece is faithful to the original material, with a layer of variations added later on, especially in the long outro section. The spirit is one of fun and admiration for the artist and repertoire.
Recorded March 27-31, 2014
Roland digital piano direct to GarageBand, no effects
All playing is live; no programming, looping or quantization
Original recording on Motown arranged by Al Johnson, produced by Winston Monseque, co-produced by André Fischer
Music copyright Warner Music Group and Longdog Music (ASCAP)
This arrangement and notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2014
For most of my life, I have been someone who was for the most part visibly, identifiably mixed race black, but lacking any other evidence of my ethnicity — biological relatives, genealogy, language, cultural items or history — beyond an adoption file that listed me as “Negroid.” I had no roots.
I knew that my white heritage was English and Irish. Unlike black peers who have often been asked where they were really from and to protect their dignity might simply answer “here,” I didn’t even have somewhere to refer back to had I chosen to disclose. Beyond being racialized, I was/from nowhere.
This year, I made contact with a birth relative, learning more about my background in the process. At the same time, joining a personal genetics site revealed numerous possible points of origin in the Global South.
With this in mind, the title of the piece is a reference to the poem “I Am – Somebody” written in the 1950s by Reverend William H. Borders, Sr. and widely popularized by Jesse Jackson.
There is a procedural approach to harmony, with root-progression clusters moving in parallel, alternating diatonic, harmonic major and melodic minor scales. The music has nothing to do with the subject per se, but seems to fit with it terms of weight, density and tone. It is a reflection of my frame of mind during developments at this point in time.
Composed August 2013, recorded October
Roland digital piano direct to file
Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce Russell 2013
Anni is for solo piano in three movements; the first and last a prelude and postlude, respectively, to the longer and more developed middle. I have posted the audio for this movement only.
The key of the second movement is ambiguous during the opening chorale, then settles into A major/F-sharp minor. It is based around an ostinato—with the left and right hands interlocked—that varies both metrically and melodically. There is a distant relation to J.S. Bach’s famous C major prelude from The Well-Tempered Clavier (a relation hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces could claim). Later in the movement, a simple two-voice counterpoint appears above the ostinato. Lastly, the ostinato emerges as a playfully additive melody in two parallel voices.
Anni was played live straight to master without a mixer or recording software.
Composed and recorded October 2012
Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2012