Venturlog

Comments from Gordon (aka ... TJ Pope)

Posted on July 14, 2011 at 5:18 AM

    My Aunt recently forwarded me an email with comments from a friend of hers regarding my music he listened to through my MySpace page. He is also a musician and I was delighted to receive his insights, each of which I then responded to. He's kindly allowed me to post our conversation here, as I thought it would bring some insite into the pieces that I wrote and some of their background and history, which some may not know about.

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    Gordon wrote on July 6, 2011.  I then responded on July 9.  His final response, which he wrote on July 10, is included at the very bottom of this blog.

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[Gordon] He has a diversity of styles from ambient airy jazz (think ECM a norwegian label) to Philip Glass (techno loop style) to live performance and vocals on some songs. Definitely, a lot to cover, it is done well (compositions/voice), and very european in favor.

[Daniel] Cool that you think of ECM or Philip Glass when you listen to my tunes. I would say that John Adams (composer, not the president :-) ) and Pat Metheney are my two most favorites and biggest influences.

[Gordon] HS Venturvane - (1st version) this was a Philip Glass meets ELP techno version which I felt was better than that live version (2nd version) which was hard to hear, especially the interplay between the instruments, the first version with the keyboard was better than the second live version, and it was probably the recording not the composition or performance.

[Daniel] This piece was actually written back in 2005 for solo guitar. So the guitar version is the original and the Techno version just for fun. I've never managed to make a nice recording of the piece other than the one that is from that live concert. The title is actually "Holy Spirit Venturvane." I had to shorten it for MySpace unfortunately. Did you think there were two guitarists playing it? It's actually just me. It was heavily inspired by John Adams, not just in the minimalist aspect, but the developmental and tension/release and large structure aspect. The piece is a personal one actually that tells about how God lead me to Germany and is in four sections: I. West Valley II. 85 South III. 101 North IV. "Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning"- Peter Pan. The name "Venturvane" is my own creation and comes from the words "adventure" and "weather vane." A weather vane shows us which way the wind is going and coming from. But a venturvane shows us which way God is leading us towards adventure. And the Holy Spirit is like the wind he uses to steer the vane. "West Valley" was the name of the college I went to and studied music at before I then came to Germany. 85 headed south and 101 headed north were the highway stretches I would take from my college to get back home. So you see the pattern with West, South, North and therefore expect something with East, like East San José, where I grew up. But of course, God always leads us in unexpected ways to adventure. So he shot me off to Germany. Therefore, I chose to title the last section after Peter Pan's famous quote, because that's the way he went to get to "Neverland." So, the titles are all metaphorical in a sense and help the listener feel like they're traveling or going to take a ride. The Techno version came about when I was fiddling with the notation of the piece on a program called Logic on a Mac computer. I could play back the notation with different sound effects, like a Steinway Grand piano or a guitar. So I also found this cool techno-like sound. And since the playback quality was so good, I exported an MP3 copy of the piano and techno versions and then mixed them together. It's funny you like the techno version better. Some folks don't like it so much. You can see a little clip of me performing the piece in the video section of my MySpace page. The video is called "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik." It's just a clip because I sell the full version as a DVD. Unfortunately I can't get it to upload to lulu.com where I sell all my other stuff. So, I'll  have to try a different route.

[Gordon] Petite Marmotte - Definitely the best recorded, was a sweet soothing Acoustic piano piece, his best composition (right now) I feel. This one was mentioned in the news article.

[Daniel] This piece is actually one of my favorites, and my wife's too. Because I wrote it as I was getting to know her. You read the article about it and know why it was written. I actually wrote a blog about the development of the piece, which you can also read on my website. It's titled "Back to the drawing board for the umpteenth time: A look behind the creation of 'Petite Marmotte.'" The recording was made on a Roland Electric Keyboard in Herrnhut where I lived. It was in the sanctuary hall of the church I attended. I liked the acoustics in there because it made the keyboard sound good. Otherwise, I would have recorded it on an acoustic piano.

[Gordon] All that I am, All that I have - Sax too loud, too up front, rest of group washed out, so this live piece worked, but it was just the recording and balance.

[Daniel] This piece was written for family member's wedding back in 2009. The title of this one is also longer and had to be shortened for the MySpace music player: "All that I am, all that I have been, I offer now to you." The title, which is the main chorus line, comes directly from the text on their wedding invitation. The first verse is from Jeremiah 29:11 in the Bible. The second verse comes from Romans 8:28. The Pre-chorus is derived from Proverbs 16:3 and 1st Corinthians 13:4,8. The only text that I wrote myself was the "Take this vow into your heart and never let it go." part. The sax is too loud in the recording, unfortunately. But it's the best recording I have of the piece at the moment. It was recorded with the sax player's iPhone, which has a pretty good microphone for such a gadget like that. I figured I'd try to make a CD of the best live recordings I have and save up with the sales of that CD to make a good recording one day. Several bands have done that before that I know of. Their first album is usually a live album.

[Gordon] 3 impressions from Abroad - Interesting and enjoyable piece, 3 movements (like the faded bride suite), maybe better representation of what each movement represented, was it a country, was it a river, was it a comparison of US  . . . San Jose/Germany, this would help the listener grasp which impression we're reflecting and focusing on.

[Daniel] This one is actually titled, "Three Impressions from Aboard the U.S.S. Blaisdell." I. Christening II. Ævélo The Whale III. Goodbye To Romance Upon Our Journey's End. Most of my pieces have a story behind them. But this one has a story that's make believe.

    The U.S.S. Blaisdell is a submarine on display in Juneau, Alaska.  Its christening in 1955 was a milestone in history, for this new class of submarine was to be the flagship of the U.S. Naval Submarine Fleet.  Its commission spanned nearly 50 years with several crews.  The christening brought much excitement and angst to its first crew as they looked forward to the adventures that were to come.

    One of the crews assigned to the submarine had quite a character of a chef in the mess hall.  The sub was in its second decade when it had an encounter for several months with a curious whale.  The chef, Ævélo, spent much of his free time watching this whale and singing to himself in a mock whale-song.  This behavior went on long before the whale had arrived and long after its disappearance.  The captain and crew, from the whale's departure onward, nicknamed the chef, Ævélo the Whale.

    Finally, when the sub had reached the day of its decommissioning, all the crews from over the years had a celebration to give their final farewells to the submarine and all the memories that came from the long years of adventure.

    Like "Holy Spirit Venturvane," it also has a sort of interwoven, metaphoric aspect to it. I wrote this piece back in College in 2004 and told the story before I performed it. But I didn't tell anyone whether it was true or make believe. So most folks thought it was true. But some asked me later and I then told them :-) I was inspired to write it while thinking of the Fantasia 2000 movie that I had seen a few years earlier in San Francisco at a huge Imax theatre. The one particular part of the film which came to mind was that with the whales. The music was "Pines of Rome" by Ottorino Respighi, which stayed in the back of my mind as I looked for inspiration to write the piece. It was just the way the music depicted the majestic and endless breadth and depth of the ocean and how vast it is in comparison to us. And the gentle and mysteriousness of the whale swimming around in the ocean was almost like the spirit of the sea, speechless and yet there so graceful and gentle. I wanted to depict this in my piece. The dissonant and ominous chord that appears in each movement reflects this most for me. The middle section of the piece with the cook and his behavior before and after the whale's appearance reminds me a bit of Brother Lawrence, whose writings were collected to form the book The Practice of the Presence of God. He wrote, "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen ... I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament." Brother Lawrence himself also worked in a kitchen. He tried to behave as if God were with him at every moment, like a close friend. So, the "Ævélo" character in my piece can be seen as Brother Lawrence who is worshiping God, though he may not see him. The whale he encounters is therefore like God's Spirit that comes and encounters him in the physical for a time. The funny thing is that I didn't intend this relation to Brother Lawrence in the piece when I wrote it or when I wrote the story of the chef and all. But I began to see the similarities that it could depict as I played it again and again. The first movement of the piece was a bit inspired by the introduction of Igor Stravinsky's "Petrushka" ballet with it's depiction of the hectic hustle and bustle of the Russian Shrovetide fair. In my mind though, I picture what is described in the story from "Three Impressions from Aboard the U.S.S. Blaisdell".

[Gordon] You are - the standout here is the flute interplay, very well done!

[Daniel] "You Are" was also written for a wedding back in July of 2009. The scripture that came to mind was that of Psalm 139 in the bible about no matter where we are, God is there. For example, Psalm 139:8 reads, "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." I wanted the song to be like a praise to God, claiming who he is, was and will always be. And the statement God made before Moses, when he saw the burning bush, that "I Am" was his name, came to mind. God is endless, he never had a beginning, and will never have an end. The part in the song after the flute solo is a picture of the anticipation of the wedding and celebration thereof.

Take hold of my hand, Lord. Guide me to that secret place.

That place where you took me that one time before.

The place filled with laughter, rejoicing and praise.

All for the bridegroom awaiting his day to wed his beloved.

His crown jewel, adorned in fine linens, sapphires and rubies.

    This is the text of that part, and it speaks for itself. As for the music, it all began one morning when I went to the Watchtower of God's Acre in Herrnhut with my guitar and just felt like I should play for God. The chords and melodies came to me and I later used them for this song.

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Hi Daniel,

    Thank You so very much for your wonderful response on your music. It was very enlightening to hear how these tunes came together, from their motivational points, as well as, their purpose, origins of and to completion, to performance, to enjoyment for others. This is what "our gift from God" allows and provides us to share "this talent we have" or as you have put it "All that I am, All that I have" with all. It is the never ending journey, for it adds clarity and vision of this art form for it is "our joy". Much continued success on this journey, for there is much music to write and many ears to hear and listen.

    Here I offer some historical insights on some of my comments to your music.

    The ECM mention was a direct connection to John Adams, for Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Terry Riley (all artists on ECM) were some of Adams early influences of minimalism, when he worked at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the Electronic Music Studio. I guess now you can understand why I did like and mention ECM and the techno piece. I would also recommend Meredith Monk, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, the work of Fripptronics, Pat Metheny's X album, and Ornette Coleman, James Blood Ulmer for continuing ideas that might inspire. Some of these artist's ideas are more commercial/ less commercial, so it is merely mentioned as reference points.

    I did give another listen to the solo guitar [version of "Holy Spirit Venturvane"], and then heard the picking style you were using and the lower detune of the bass strings on the guitar, but I found it more akin to what Michael Hedges, William Ackerman, and Alex De Grassi artists on the Windham Hill label are doing. So now I understand not two guitars, but one, and understand the Pat Metheny influence.  Also like to compliment on the use of bell harmonics  nice placement, well executed, very Lenny Breau.


Best,

Gordon . . . aka TJ Pope

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