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The Music of Carla Bley Amy C. Beal (UC Santa Cruz)

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Presentation on theme: "The Music of Carla Bley Amy C. Beal (UC Santa Cruz)"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Music of Carla Bley Amy C. Beal (UC Santa Cruz)

2 Romantic Notions #1 Romantic Notions (1987) Eight solo piano pieces Dedicated to Ursula Oppens, Alan Feinberg, and Robert Shannon Premiered by Oppens in 1988 Reorchestrated in 1997

3 Lovella May Borg (b. 1936, Oakland, CA) “I always did whatever interested me. I probably would have compromised myself, but no one ever asked me to.”

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5 “Doctor” (Jazz Realities, 1965/66)

6 Christian Wolff, Darmstadt (1972): “Freedom has come about by virtue of the fact that the avant garde has, until fairly recently, existed in a kind of social vacuum, it has not been taken up or supported by any of the normal social agencies, be they academic or be they the concert world. The normal establishment musical life has until very recently, and now only in very tentative ways, has made no effort whatsoever to do anything for this kind of music. So the composers of this kind of music have always felt a kind of indifference to, or lack of pressure from, certain social demands. They didn’t feel that they had to write music that would be pleasing to a particular kind of establishment.”

7 Wolff, 1972, cont.: “This isn’t to say that they didn’t feel economic pressures, they weren’t free in that sense, but they were artistically or aesthetically free. If you reflect on that a little bit you can see there are both advantages and disadvantages to that condition. It’s obviously a very good atmosphere in which to grow up, and in which to find what you need to find, and what you can do musically, but on the other hand, you pay a very great price for this sense of isolation, of being cut off. ”

8 Carla Bley: “Almost everything I’ve written has been covered, which means quite an income for me. And I live very comfortably. And I feel proud and sort of like a shining example, mainly because I’m independent. I don’t belong to a stable. I’m not a pet of the recording industry. I put out my own records. We book our own band. I have my publishing company. I have my own recording studio. Everything I do is totally controlled by me. I’ve never had to compromise one bit.”

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10 Nat Hentoff on NMDS (1984): “NMDS is an exceptionally valuable network for people who need music to make sense of the world and themselves. And that’s an understatement. When I was a kid I used to buy Harry Partch records by mail direct from Harry Partch. It was exciting, getting the music from the musician. I cherished those records—both for what was in them, and the freedom they represented. And that’s what NMDS is distributing. Freedom.”

11 Steve Swallow on Bley: “Despite Carla’s insistence that she’s just trying to write like Ernie Wilkins, she ruthlessly rejects cliché in everything she does. Over the years she has evolved a personal melodic vocabulary based on unexpected but entirely logical intervallic relationships. She has also synthesized a harmonic vocabulary from a variety of sources. She has an extraordinary ear. She was the first person I’m aware of to develop an understanding of Thelonious Monk’s voicings, for example. She has perfect pitch, and can sing the notes in the voicings of incredibly dense harmonies. I’ve heard her do this to music by Charles Wuorinen, perhaps her favorite composer.”

12 Types of Music Miniatures (early short pieces) Early “Songs Without Words” JCOA Concept Albums Liberation Music Orchestra Other Arrangements/Orchestrations Additional Work For/With Others Fancy Chamber Music Big Band/Very Big Band Duos with Swallow Other Small Ensembles

13 Miniatures ( “haiku style” ) [early short pieces, ] Donkey O Plus One Bent Eagle And Now The Queen Ictus Vashkar Flags Walking Woman

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15 Early recorded work: 1. “O Plus One” (Paul Bley, Solemn Meditation, 1958) 2. “Bent Eagle” (George Russell, Stratusphunk, 1960)

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23 Early “Songs Without Words” (ca ) Sing Me Softly of the Blues Ida Lupino Útviklingssang Jésus Maria

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26 JCOA/CBBB Concept Albums A Genuine Tong Funeral (Gary Burton) [1967] Escalator Over the Hill [ ] “Why” [“Vashkar”] “Rawalpindi Blues” Tropical Appetites [1973] “The Funny Bird Song” Dinner Music [1977] Musique Mecanique [1978] Carla Bley Big Band Goes To Church [1996] Looking For America [2003]

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31 Additional Arrangements and Orchestrations Carl Ruggles Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra National Anthems We Shall Overcome Christmas Carols Spanish Civil War Songs El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido Samuel Barber Antonin Dvorak Soon I Will Be Done With the Troubles of This World (trad. Spiritual) Nick Mason, Fictitious Sports Kurt Weill, Nino Rota, Thelonious Monk (Hal Willner)

32 “Fancy Chamber Music” More Brahms (1986) Romantic Notions (1987) End of Vienna (1993) Wolfgang Tango (1998)

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37 Bley on “Over There” “Over There could be imagined as a tug between classical waltz feel and jazz waltz feel. The player starts off in a standard Viennese waltz fashion, but before long, a few syncopations are creeping into the left hand and a swing time-feel gradually takes over. Even ‘rhythm and blues’ phrases pop up, although the early form and chord changes remain unchanged. One R&B inspiration was the Holland/Dozier/Holland song recorded by the Supremes, “Where Did Our Love Go?” That song is an early favorite of mine, and there are quotes from it sprinkled here and there, and references to the way the words “Baby Baby” and the background was sung. The title Over There is an accidental quote of a World War II patriotic song. An entertaining discovery was that the title happens to answer the question of the earlier mentioned Supremes song.”

38 The Final Word? “The last four bars should be played with a strong and rhythmic jazz feel, having, so to speak, the final word.”


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