joe's last mix

July 9, 2006 11:36 PM

And Now For Something Completely Different: This is a piece of concert music, played by a large ensemble of instrumentalists. I'm a conductor, and I often collaborate with young, up-and-coming (and often quite brilliant) composers, by commissioning new works and premiering them. This is one such piece, played by one of my university ensembles. joe's last mix, by Tanner Menard (who mainly composes computer/electronic works), uses as a point of departure the ways the DJs construct mixes--this generates the large-scale form as well as some of the ways he manipulates the musical motives. (My favorite moment is either the Latin-esque groove about 3:30 in, or the amazing transformation of texture about about 4:30.) It's an unusual piece, that I think rocks, and I'm very interested in your feedback--what do you think of these sounds? (Also, I recommend headphones--there's a lot of ear candy going on in there!)

posted by LooseFilter (11 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Oh, this is good—nay, awesome. Not Loose at all. A more accurate descriptor would be tight. Really enjoyable; epic, but accessible. I would love love love some more.
posted by Eideteker at 6:58 AM on July 10, 2006

Quite brilliant!
posted by nthdegx at 6:53 PM on July 10, 2006

More more more!! That was fantastic!
posted by tomble at 1:44 AM on July 11, 2006

Pretty slick.
posted by Paris Hilton at 1:53 AM on July 11, 2006

Fantastic! Reminds me a lot of John Adams, whose music I love to tiny tiny pieces. Add me to the chorus calling for more.

I'd love to hear some of Tanner's electronic works, too...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:15 PM on July 11, 2006

Gorgeous. That must've been fun for the musicians to play, too, I'd think.
posted by zoinks at 3:27 PM on July 12, 2006

I'm so glad people are enjoying this piece! I really love it, too (beyond my personal connections to it, that is). It is in fact tremendous fun--and tremendously hard--to play. My students were bewildered at first (particularly with the parts that are phase shifted [unison canons a beat or half a beat apart], those can be very disorienting), and then grew to love it.

I'll post more soon, a few different composers with whom I've collaborated. For more of Tanner's music, this is his myspace music page with four pieces/excerpts. He works entirely on laptop these days, so quite different from joe's last mix (which I commissioned in 1999 while I was still in grad school and he was still an undergrad!)
posted by LooseFilter at 4:59 PM on July 12, 2006

Awesome! It reminds me of Hindemuth! and a little bit of Drill by Evan Ziporyn, which I was once fortunate enough to play. I would love to hear more orchestral stuff, especially by those up-and-coming composers.
posted by matematichica at 6:27 PM on July 12, 2006

Yep. Awesome. And I'd just like to boast that I knew they were unison canons before I read that that's what they were. Those Piano lessons when I was 12 have certainly paid off. :)
posted by Jofus at 5:08 AM on July 13, 2006

This is amazing. I would buy this on CD just to get a higher bitrate version.
posted by aye at 2:19 AM on July 22, 2006

Thanks to all for the very enthusiastic, positive feedback! For those interested (and still looking at these comments at all), below are excerpts from a longer analytical comment I wrote to a colleague performing the piece, to help him conceptualize the piece better.

I commissioned joe's last mix while I was in graduate school, as a tribute & memorial to my stepfather Joe, who died in 1994, way too early, after a 5-month struggle with cancer. Tanner was 20 when he began work on the piece.
I’d like to comment in 2 areas, the personal and the technical. Personally, I commissioned joe’s last mix as a celebration of the life of my stepfather, Joe Sullivan, who passed away in 1994. I wasn’t sure what type of piece I wanted, and it was Tanner who suggested a celebration rather than a memorial. Tanner knows my family well, but never knew Joe—after talking with us about him, Tanner realized how much light and happiness he’d brought to our family, and chose that as his poetic inspiration. In fact, the musical material for much of the piece comes from “Within You, Without You” from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album—the opening melody in the horns/piccolo uses the same notes from the raga used in that track!—since Joe was a big Beatles fan.

That’s why the piece ends so abruptly—it doesn’t end so much as just stop. The large scale form is obviously ternary, with elements of return reminiscent of sonata-allegro form; it’s really a big mix, as the title says. The first section can be thought of as the first record of a mix, the second section (at letter G) is where the second record is dropped, and the third section a mixing of material from the previous 2 records. The piece winds up and up through to the end, which is the point where a third record would need to be dropped; as Joe’s life ended too soon, a piece incomplete, if you will, so does joe’s last mix end in process.

The material used in the work is surprisingly very simple—most is presented in the first 16 bars. The whole piece happens in 16 bar units, and can be thought of in layers, or planes, of sound. At the opening, there are 2 planes: the melody in the horns, with the piccolo highlighting the overtones of the horn sound, and the bells adding dissonance; and the groove in the timpani/bass/piano. New layers are added every 16 bars, and are frequently foreshadowed 4 bars early, as with the clarinet/mallet percussion entrance in measure 13. Moving through the first section, this pattern becomes evident.


It would probably be helpful at this point to comment on the section headings, peculiar though they seem:

brahms ][ raga refers to the pitch content of the opening melody, as I mentioned earlier: it’s the raga from George Harrison’s track on Sgt. Pepper. ‘Brahms’ refers to the opening of Brahms’ First Symphony, with its pounding timpani and vivid sense of space and expansiveness, which Tanner was trying to evoke.

a sequence of darkened quavers refers to the sequential (or episodic) nature of this section, which I outlined above. ‘Darkened quavers’ means that tanner is using the 2 scale degrees (D and C#) of a minor scale that were omitted in the first section.

phat man can dance is kind of an in joke, but it basically means that this section should really groove, and feel like a dance. The ‘phat man’ comes from an image Tanner had stuck in his head while writing the piece of a heavyset, kind of dorky guy (in a fluorescent lime green t-shirt, according to Tanner’s imagination) dancing terribly, but very enthusiastically. I love that image, as it speaks to directly to the liberating quality of both this piece, and music in general.

waydown ][ breakdown refers both to the musical explosion and disintegration that occurs in the transition into letter O, but also to the sensation of a trance-like (or ego-less) state that music and dance can induce in the participant. It is, in a sense, ‘crossing over’ into a different non-self state of consciousness that is being illustrated. It’s also about crossing over from life into what’s next, hence the dreamlike quality of the music, which should be emphasized.

the edge referring to the threshold of being and non-being. Consider as you will.

posted by LooseFilter at 7:44 PM on July 22, 2006

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