This week it's all about Australian composer and guitarist Simon Imagin, whose skills at both have to be heard to be believed - fortunately you can do that by following the links below. And if you happen to find yourself in Melbourne, make sure you get to see him live - I know I will.
IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.
It's All About Simon Imagin
It’s all about JS Bach
JS Bach's music has been a huge inspiration for me as a composer, musician and person.
I first discovered Bach as a teenager studying classical piano. I had no time for the pomp and circumstance of the classical world - I just needed to know how people like Bach accessed the music which seemed to flow through them in rivers of intertwining melodies.
Music filled my head but seemed stuck there for the time.
I was learning Bach's 2 & 3-Part Inventions and was comparing various recordings to show me different approaches. Most were performed efficiently but said very little to me. Then I heard Glenn Gould's versions.
Not only did he have a total technique and understanding of the music, but this eccentric Canadian was allowing the music to take him over. Everything was coming out of the moment that both Bach and Gould had found themselves in.
Gould's 1981 recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations is the one I visit the most. Amazingly a film was made of it.
It’s All About Me
Now, although I am not anywhere near either man in skill, as a composer I had a small Bach/Gould experience in 2009 when I experimented with writing music in one sitting - virtually slow-motion improvisation. Bach often gives me the feeling where he is just as interested where the piece will lead as any listener so I decided to follow my inner ear with an open mind and see what I could come up with.
I started by inventing a short and simple melodic fragment that lasted a bar or two - just a few notes that suggested a rhythm. I wrote out the logical extension of that line until I had a nice musical statement that went for 4, 6 or perhaps 8 bars. Next I added a supportive bass melody and maybe a third inner line. If anything didn't quite sound right I erased and rewrote but I was always moving forwards and working steadily one bar at a time and not letting my attention wander too far.
When I found that I had a cohesive chunk of music (or "A part") I continued with writing a complementary (or completely different) "B" and "C" part using the same procedure. I also came up with an intro and outro to bookend the piece. The process wasn't far from that 'kindergarten feeling' of making something with the objects at hand. At the end of the session I had a two page composition and left it on the table. The next day I played through it and was amazed at it's originality.
How did I write that?
Not allowing myself to feel too smug I wrote 'piece two' and each night or so I added another until I had completed 36 complex pieces in the space of 60 days. Some nights I felt more tired but that seemed to help the music to come out more easily as I wasn't questioning the process. With a few small revisions these were arranged into six suites of six pieces each and they now form the bulk of my setlist. It amazes me how many simple moments added together can lead to such richness.
The notes are out there for us all I believe and we can catch them in our butterfly nets if we keep an open ear and are patient. Here are simple run-throughs of pieces 2 and 20.
You can contact Simone via his email address: simonimagin at gmail dot com