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Titling my project “Of Our Time” was a conscious choice with a dose of humor. The two concerts given this year contained much music that is undeniably anachronistic: from bebop era jazz to popular songs dating back to 1918. My general interest in American musical culture has broadened and deepened during my time at Bard. Though not conservative in my musical taste, since I first started listening to music as a child I have always tried to see the value of music of other eras. While this effort is nothing new for the tradition of European art music, it is counter the general tendency towards the ephemeral in the American popular music culture out of which jazz has grown. From my education at Bard I have developed an understanding of the historical and social conditions of jazz music’s genesis and development. It is because of this historical framework, rather than in spite of it, that I believe that seemingly anachronistic music can be just as emotive or relevant when recontextualized.
The original compositions in my first concert were fairly conventional in their melodic and harmonic content and were, to a degree, successful. For my second concert, I hoped to be more adventurous. Drawing upon my study of modernist classical music with Kyle Gann, and post-bop jazz with John Esposito and Erica Lindsay, I wrote pieces featuring bitonality, cyclical chord progressions, and odd meter. I must stop for a moment and thank John Esposito for performing on two of my pieces, and two standards, bringing them to their full potential.
Each of my concerts also contained a spoken word piece with musical accompaniment. I attempted these pieces both as a personal challenge and to bring variety, and a bit of humor, to my performances. The first of these used text derived from a speech, given by Frank Zappa, to a group of university composers. The satirical text was accompanied with distorted examples of popular song and classical music. For the second piece I wrote both the text and the music. With a better understanding pacing and use of space, the words and music married better in this composition. The audience enthusiastically received both pieces.
Despite some minor technical and performance problems, I feel, if not satisfied, then at least not disappointed in my concerts. I am emboldened to continue to experiment and explore as a composer and develop as a performer beyond my time here at Bard.
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Ricker, William Jacob Reed, "Of Our Time: Two Concerts of Original and Repertory Jazz Music" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 365.