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Remaking a Dream

October 30, 2012

I like to think of composing as a waking dream, imagining sounds that follow each other, in a state of mind that is open to possibility. Sometimes it starts with a concept like “how about playing something in a Lydian mode?” This is what I did one morning four years ago when I grabbed my retuned guitar, put a capo on the second fret and started messing around. Rolling the ideas forward, adding new sections until I had a piece that seemed finished.

At 6:05 am, September 30, 2012, the morning of Nuit Blanche, without ever having heard the piece John Kameel Farrah [JKF] added textures, chords and ornaments thundering to the ending with me like he had known the piece for a long time. This was an uncanny experience, and as his playing joined mine, I felt my dream of the work grow to encompass these larger sounds as well.

Last night I recorded a demo of this piece – Lydian Sunrise  – at the Canadian Music Centre with JKF. It was interesting to be in the same venue to record as we were for Nuit Blanche, although this time we met at 6:05 pm!  We discussed how to approach the project, and I suggested a piano solo in the middle to create a contrast to the opening guitar solo; it seemed appropriate to feature the talent he was bringing to the piece.

JKF was concerned that he couldn’t remember what he had done on that dawn of our previous engagement, but hoped to create something equally satisfying. Our recording engineer for the evening was John Gray, archivist at the Canadian Music Centre, whose estimable commitment and expertise ensures that composer associates of the CMC get their music streamed to the world. As Mr. Gray set up the big Neuman M 150 microphones to record the Steingraeber & Sohne grand piano we tried bits of the piece together for only the second time. We continued as he set the Neuman clones in front of the guitar. With microphones of that quality and a reasonable placement, we were assured of a marvellous sound.

I was worried that the difference in volume levels would mess things up and as we played more JKF suggested I move closer so that I was about six feet from his right arm. This way he could hear what I was doing and easily adjust his levels through touch. After the first take we chatted a bit and went for a second take. During this attempt the guitar slid out of tune, and I felt we had a better take inside us.

JKF asked if he could “sneak in”, which he does in a very beautifully, presenting the piano so delicately that you’re not sure at first if that is what you hear. This take proved to be the best: at the end of his solo he “invited” me back in and I tried to choose the best moment to do so. The finish for the piece is fairly big, and we somehow arrived together without any rehearsal – other than the previous takes.

I feel very lucky to have had my dream become bigger and richer.

(Photo: John Gray)

One day the Hodja invited his friends over for dinner telling them that he was preparing roasted quails. The Hodja’s friends thought of a prank and came to dinner prepared. When the quails were cooked, the Hodja placed them in his large, old serving platter and put the lid on to keep them warm. He brought the covered platter to the dinner table and went back to the kitchen to bring other things. While he was in the kitchen, the pranksters, hid the platter with the cooked quails and replaced it with another that contained live quails. When the Hodja was ready to serve the dinner, he opened the lid of the platter and all the quails flew out and about. The Hodja watched the birds in astonishment, darting this way and that, eventually flying out through the open windows.

`Sublime Allah’, he spoke looking up, `it is very well that you gave life to these cooked birds, but how are you going to reimburse me for the butter, salt and tomato paste I used?

  1. I really like that recording – the piano makes it richer and deeper.

  2. thank you my sweet.

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