Composition No. 55 is a medium tempo structure for the creative orchestra that was composed in May 1975 in Woodstock, New York. The reality of this work is conceived as one of six works for a recording date—as an attempt to document a cross-section of my music for that context. I approached this structure as a vehicle to capture the wonder and magic of big band swinging music—because for me the power and excitement of that context has something very special and unique. Composition No. 55 is especially inspired from the works of Duke Ellington and Charlie Mingus—and the continuum of 'intentions' that motivated their desire to achieve (involvement). I have casted this work in a traditional mold so that the listener can better see the composite relationship of the total music—because all of these efforts represent one reality (and one objective). Composition No. 55 is indebted to the last one hundred years of creative African master thinkers and restructuralists in its attempts to establish 'blocks' of structural involvements (in between solo sections or time/space) and in its language components and science (vibrational and structural types) applications. This is a forum for establishing a swinging music that adheres to the responsibilities of the 'now understood' (?) post-be-bop continuance of the music. I have tried in this effort to include a saxophone section emphasis, brass section emphasis, vamp patterns—as well as background lines under given solos (as practiced in the traditional continuum of the music). Composition No. 55 is conceived as a joyous statement about creative music—as well as an attempt to get down to the essence of the involvement. Since the initial recording date I have performed this work in many different settings—and in very case the thought (or intention) that surrounds its use is one of explosive excitement that is positively intended. Composition No. 55 is a multiple structural terrain that consists of several layers of conceptual and structure attitudes. To experience the composite reality of this work is to encounter many different kinds of musical devices—some of which are quite in keeping with what this medium would view as normal, and some of which are not. The combination of all of the ingredients gives the work its own special identity. Composition No. 55 is dedicated to [blank]
Composition No. 55 was conceived to emphasize four basic idea strategies—that being (1) the use of extreme intervallic distances as a basis for language construction, (2) the use of repetition as a factor to position particular phrase grouping statements, (3) the use of open solo structural spaces and (4) the use of linear (horizontal) development and musical thinking. Once the component nature of the work was worked out the final (actual) score was written in moment time without any overstructuring devices in either its harmonic and/or rhythmic decisions. All of the principal idea contents of Composition No. 55 were openly positioned into the greater music as I heard the music during construction. As such it is important to elaborate on the isolated nature of these considerations in its own right. This is so because the reality of Composition No. 55 is not an affirmation of a fixed theorem (that glorifies some mathematical theorem) nor did the work happen by chance. Rather the final realness of this structure involves the integration of improvisation and preparation—and as such these matters can be discussed.
The first strategy, that being the use of extreme intervallic distances in the infrastructure contours of the music, involves the use of pitch as a device (consideration) to distort the perception of continuity (as a basis to promote an alternative viewpoint about sound construction). The reality of this idea is not separate from my interest in 'line' structures from the post-be-bop continuance intervallic distances in the infrastructure of the music. 'Extreme distances' in this regard involves the use of what would normaly seem like be-bop type line phrase constructions that are perceived as 'disjointed' in the context of what this language is in its source-initiated most basic state. I have tried in this respect to apply phrase specifics for this context from the same value systems that I normally utilize as a practicing instrumentalist. The reality of this approach moves to solidify (for me, anyway) a state of 'indecision' as to the overall effect of a given note (phrase) decision—and what this means is that I myself am always surprised about 'what happened' in the music. In other words the use of intervallic contour shifting moves to create an attitude about music that is more important than 'is it right or not?' The dynamics of this technique were applied throughout the whole of the music—from the beginning to the end. In particular the use of extreme intervallic shifting was accentedly explored in the reed section becaues of the construction dynamics of the instruments. The saxophone section in this regard is given unison line material that emphasizes new time and gravallic points in the music—while at the same time showing us that the traditional foundation of the music cannot simply be dismissed as irrelevant for the future (of music continuance). Composition No. 55 was conceived as a clear signal about the composite body of creative music. How we integrate our past (and the past of humanity) into future decisions will determine the success of the future (or if there is to be a future).
Repetition in Composition No. 55 is utilized as a time parameter housing—that stacks information from each section of the orchestra—and as a generating factor. The reality of this technique is not separate from the composite series of cobalt generating structures. There are two degrees of this technique in Composition No. 55—repetition in the sense of building up an established phrase construction (in the use of dynamics that get louder with each repeat—as in Section A1) or repetition in the sense of starting from one phrase in the orchestra (i.e. played in one section—like for instance the trombone) and adding a new section each repetition. The realness of this technique can be found in every period of the music and in itself should not be viewed as unique. The nature of its use in Composition No. 55 does however have unique features in its choice of phrase grouping statements (and construction specifics). I have tried to use repetitive sound parameters in Composition No. 55 to open up the space of the music—and this is accomplished through the use of expanded phrase and phrase focus devices. All materials in these sections were approached with the intention of establishing a multiple focus sound context that would of its own accord coalesce into a homogenous sound entity—rather than a one-dimensional sound arena that constructs itself as a 'one material level' sound statement. In the case of generating phrase grouping structures, repetition is utilized as a blanket to establish 'exploration dynamics' for the extended improvising instrumentalist. There are several degrees of this consideration—depending on both the music (and my needs as a composer) as well as the particulars of the instrument in the orchestra. The first degree in this context is repetition with respect to the use of long sound material (as a means to advance—restate—the focus of a given idea—as in Section A1) or as a means to regulate the vibrational basis of the music (i.e. the use of repeating material under the solos that doesn't detract from the overall focus of the music—as in Section D). The use of this context is generally positioned in the rhythm section, as well as in the brass section (to a somewhat lesser extent), because of the design of the instrumentalists (and the realness that extended intervallic complexity for the brass instruments is generally not the best thing to do for the lips of the musicians). The second degree of repetition in Composition No. 55 involves the use of repetition as a generating component that forces the momentum of the music. In this context I am referring to the use of phrase grouping repetition (i.e. ostinato) as a technique to solidify 'sound patterns' positioned under the soloist. For this role intervallic constructions are utilized to create perceived momentum in the music.
The use of open solo spaces in Composition No. 55 can be viewed from the context of post-Coleman functionalism. By the term open solo space I am referring to the use of designated solo space (from both a fixed and open structural time space context) that is approached without any pre-fixed harmonic components. It is expected however for the soloist to at least be familiar with the reality of be-bop phraseology (in some sense of the concept) because Composition No. 55 was conceived from that spirit. The fixed components of this consideration (open improvisation) involves the use of thirty-two-bar solo sections that make use of the traditional rhythm section under-soloist format. In this context is structured one solo for first trumpet (which is really an extension from the open (length) solo that began after Section C) that makes use of background chords and timbral dynamics. The open component of this consideration (open solo use) involves the use of non-fixed solo regions that have no pre-fixed time duration. In this context the music can be fitted to meet the needs of the moment (yet on this point it is important to be very clear, for the structural elasticity of Composition No. 55 does not represent innovation in any sense of the word—for the reality of 'open performance options' comes from the world community). I have tried in Composition No. 55 to simply participate—and hopefully 'forward'—what these considerations can mean in the future. For the context of open duration time spaces (treatments) I have applied regenerating phrase groupings based on the original material that comprises Section A1 (that being the fifteenth note grouping that is the principal line statement of the section). This task is given to the vibes, piano and string bass to influence and establish the space of the music (in Section G). Composition No. 55 was conceived as a multiple sound statement that allows for the possibility of dynamic creativity. For this reason much effort was put forth to establish unique platforms for its soloist to draw from (and on). This is consistent with the reality of big band structures—as offered to us by masters like Henderson and Basie.
Composition No. 55 was constructed with respect to linear idea development as a given postulation relates to extended be-bop phraseology. Emphasis in this context is placed on eight-note phrase grouping music (and music notation). Phrase groupings for this work involve the use of sectional statements in the tradition of big band sound groupings (i.e. the sax, trumpet, trombone and rhythm section assemblage—including, when desired, guitar, piano and/or one or two percussionists and/or string basses). The composite thrust of Composition No. 55 was conceived as a complete 'viewpoint' that presents many different 'faces' (in the form of structural sections) as a means to make its 'reality focus' (character). As such the forward thrust of the music (in its moment to moment perception expansion—evolution) proceeds as an extended statement about a central 'idea'—as opposed to the concept of thematic and/or vibrational development. This is a structural universe of revolving materials that come and go in the sound space of the music. In the actual course of experiencing the music the listener gradually becomes familiar with the logic and material dynamics of the work. Composition No. 55 is an expanding universe of common and complex phrase components to meet the challenge of the next time cycle.
The composite form of Composition No. 55 is A (A1) B C (0) D (A1) E F G (A2) (A3) A (A-1B) and it is from this point that the progressional specifics of the work can be discussed. Section A is an eight-bar chorus of unison saxophone section line material that breaks down into two phrase grouping statements (each of which are really independent four-bar phrase groupings in their own right). This material is primarily constructed of eight-note line movements that intervallically skip into extreme line shifts from register to register. The reality of a given shift in this context is related to the gravallic weight underlying how that phrase was perceived (in moment time) by the composer. Both phrase statements in Section A make use of this same 'intention'—as a means to establish the nature and focus of the music. In this regard the use of ensemble phrase grouping moves to create new challenges for the reality of ensemble execution dynamics (and effect). All phrase grouping constructions of this type (i.e. in Section A) are played in harmony by the entire saxophone section—as a means to accent the realness of what a new line can mean in the next cycle of the music. Section A establishes the real focus and character of Composition No. 55. This is a be-bop music type that adheres to the conceptual and language specifics of big band functional and structural techniques. By performing this function Composition No. 55 provides a bridge to better understanding the composite thrust of Trans African continuance.
Section A1 is the principal motivic and/or structural platform of Composition No. 55. In actual terms this is a two-bar phrase that repeats four times (while in the process gradually increasing its volume). This section is used as a 'positioning' device throughout the whole of the music (i.e. as a vehicle to establish transitions, as a vehicle to clarify material focus, and as a vehicle to structurally make extended adjustments). There are two most basic material divisions in Section A1—involving the use of moving and stationary sound functions. A moving sound function in this context involves the use of the previously mentioned fifteen-note phrase pattern (which for Section A1 is positioned for the reeds) and stationary in this context refers to the use of one pitch (sound) that repeats (without changing pitch) with respect to each pattern cycle (of the composite section repeat). Section A1 is the most basic vibrational and material platform in Composition No. 55. All of the subsequent moments of the music were composed as a response to what this material (Section A1) poses. As previously mentioned in paragraph [blank], the top part of this material (the fifteen-note phrase pattern) is also the extended pattern that establishes extended focus (treatment) in Section G.
Sections B and F were conceived as platforms for repetitive material stacking—as a means to show what these techniques can mean for alternative contexts. Both of these sections, along with Section G, were designed in accordance with the previously mentioned emphasis on repetition—as a primary intention in the construction (decision) of Composition No. 55. Both of these sections start with one instrumental section and each new repeat adds another section. It is however the interrelationship between phrase grouping components—in these sections—that gives the technique new alternatives for the next cycle. I have constructed material in Section B and F to stimulate the gravallic inter-tension of simultaneous structures—as a means to emphasize new (not noticed?) points in the sound space. The reality of this decision is responsible for the interesting angle of phrase stacking employed in this sections. This is true even though the primary material ingredient that makes up the focus of the music (idea) is comprised of accented eight-note constructions (elements). For this reason the material focus of Sections B and F continually surprises us, because all entrances reveal metric-like phrase grouping statements (whose primary ingredient respects the beat—or pulse perception—of the time/tempo) whose actual music somehow disjoints the sound space (because of the separate gravallic specifics of each independent phrase). The reality of this phenomenon gives Composition No. 55 a very special advantage.
Sections C and E are the primary tutti sections of Composition No. 55. It is in these regions where the power and diversity of the band can be appreciated (and felt). For the most part both of these sections can be viewed as short transitions that prepare our vibrations for a change in focus. Tutti band participation in both contexts amount only to eight- and/or sixteen-bar statements—in the tradition of quick structures for creative orchestra (i.e. lightly designed and to the point). There are only light differences in Composition No. 55 (for instance Section B is fifteen bars in fact but not in mindset and/or effect). The full richness of the creative orchestra is lightly utilized in Composition No. 55—instead this is a color for the overall sound environment that doesn't interfere with the flow of the music.