Saturday, July 21, 2012

Masters Thesis

I'm very happy to share with you all the final version of my Masters thesis, titled: Elliott Carter's Rhythmic Language: A Framework for Improvisation.

I suppose at this point I could pen a lengthy reflection on the process of writing, research, performance, the course itself, or perhaps it's demise, but at this stage I'll endeavour to keep things very short.

Dr. Donna Coleman is by far and away one of the most inspiring and instructive teachers I've come across. Her enthusiasm seems to know no bounds, and her piano playing is always awe-inspiring, even more so at close quarters. I actually already owned Abbey Whiteside's famous book, On Piano Playing before I started with Donna, but it was my lessons with her that transformed that book from mere descriptions to a physical sensation I then learned and continue to refine.

The thesis details my analysis of one piano piece of Carter's, 90+ (1994), and my efforts to use the rhythmic language contained therein as a basis for my own music. My discoveries along the way have profoundly changed the way I think about rhythm.

As with most theses, it seems, my thesis is pretty dry to read, but hopefully it contains some useful information for those who are interested. I also hope that it might act as guidance for those wishing to pursue a similar topic.

Finally, it seems to me that, to paraphrase a friend of mine, that 'complex' rhythms can be used for good and evil. To my mind, this means being mindful to allowing the music to breathe, have space, and create drama. In the end (and this hopefully does not come off as too shameless a plug), I hope the reader will listen to (perhaps even buy) my music as the final product of all this work. My trio release from earlier this year, Sarcophile contains recordings discussed in this thesis.

The thesis can be downloaded from:

For audio please check out:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Songs Without Words

I'm in Europe at the moment, so last night I joined some friends to watch the European Cup final between Spain and Italy.

I was struck by the fact that, like most national anthems, the Italian Il Canto degli Italiani has words, while the Spanish, Marcha Real, does not.

Needless to say, both anthems carry significant meaning for their respective nations. Surely there's no stronger indicator of music's ability to carry meaning, not through words or purely musical elements (most national anthems, it seams, a built on common practice harmonic and melodic vocabulary) but through how that piece is positioned in a society's psyche and how it is associated with the defining elements of a society, or in this case, country.

During the opening ceremony of the game, I must admit thinking that the Italians looked more passionate (practically) screaming their hearts out, while the Spanish team stood their motionless. Striking also, were the contrasting ritualistic aspects: the Italian crowd were (I assume) deafening, and a choir stood and sang behind the players, while the Spanish stood motionless, accompanied by no-one but the recording.

Spain trounced the Italians, 4-nil. A victory for the social standing of word-less song?