Sunset Park Polyphony Liner Notes, by David Bindman, June 25, 2011

 

In Sunset Park, Brooklyn one hears a polyphony of multiple languages, children playing, airplanes, traffic, music, and birds singing. I composed most of the pieces on this recording after moving to the Sunset Park neighborhood in 2006. The sounds are inspired by dreams and images of life and were only quantified during the notation process. In this music we offer paths to wander, to dance, to follow threads of imagination...

CD 1

1. Shape One is set in a 15-pulse grouping that can be heard/felt in 7 beats, with multiple layers of time expressed as five, three, and one. Saxophone, trumpet, and drums state the initial themes; then all layer in to reveal the underlying harmonies and song form. This piece is dedicated to our friend, poet and activist Tyrone Henderson (1947-2011).

2. Long Line Home remembers the home and community of my childhood in Englewood, New Jersey - the sights and sounds of Belmont Street, the hot sun on a baseball field, friends and teachers, my mother drinking tea in the early morning light...The piece continues in the 15-pulse cycle began in Shape One, slower and with a different feel.

3. Sunset Park Polyphony - The introduction, without metric time corresponding to the Indian alapana , is set in the Pantuvarali raga , a Hindu devotional modality. Melodies rise from the space created by the raga, crossing each other in multiple meters and converging on a single point that launches the drum solo. The first theme is stated over a simultaneously slow and fast 7 cycle, derived from the Karnatic (South Indian) misra eka tala (time cycle). A second theme spans a 21-beat cycle with inner subdivisions written as 10 beats, with underlying layers of 7. The saxophone solo section is grouped around the ancient tirripugar tala : in this piece with 7 beats expressed in three successive levels of speed, regular time (four pulses per beat - 28 pulses), double time (two pulses per beat - 14 pulses), and quadruple time (one pulse per beat - 7 pulses), whose overall duration is 49 pulses. A piano solo moves to a fast 7 adapted from the Karnatic misra capu tala , then into a slow 7 kala (speed) with trombone and trumpet improvisations before a return to the themes.

4. Robeson House Echoes - Robeson House, a former carriage barn at Bennington College overlooking the Green Mountains of Vermont, resonates with the sounds of all who have made music there. This piece is dedicated to Bill Dixon (1925-2010), who was the founder and leader of the musical family that came together at Robeson House. The introductory theme, stated by the saxophone in non-metric time, is then expanded and deconstructed by the ensemble. A 23-note phrase returns later, voiced in four parts and played at varying speeds. The underlying rhythm for the trumpet solo is a 60-pulse cycle felt in progressively faster groups of five: as quarters, dotted eighths, eighths, and three repetitions of sixteenths. We focus on the way notes, shadings, shapes, and tonalities come together spontaneously.

CD 2

Landings Suite follows a young person, Eyepod, as s/he rises to great heights, wanting more and more while turning a blind eye to the resulting injustice and environmental devastation all around. Ultimately s/he humbles herself and returns to work for the best that is humanly possible.

1. The Transient - A modern-day Icarus, Eyepod journeys, rootless, seeking the unknown and the unattainable. Melodic lines move independently in a 31-pulse cycle.

2. Icarus Flies Towards the Sun and Returns - S/he flies higher and higher but turns around in the nick of time and survives the trip back to earth to tread with a new consciousness and spend the rest of her life learning, teaching, and planting trees. The piece begins as a canon and moves outward from there.

3. Singing Bird Melody was originally composed for my grandmother Joyce Sparer Adler's dramatization of Herman Melville's Billy Budd . Billy's benediction is "...d elivered in the clear melody of a singing bird on the point of launching from the twig..." (Melville), with Billy Budd as "...a symbol of harmony and as a captive in the world of war..." (Adler). In my interpretation, this is the current war being waged on humanity and nature for the cause of capitalism/neocolonialism.

4. Invisible Dance refers to the dances of millions of oppressed people who will never get on a jet plane, who raise children, take care of the elderly, are compassionate, resolve conflicts, respect each other's humanity, live within communities and within the cycles of life and nature, and whose spirits endure. This movement begins with Gahu drum calls and responses from the Ewe People of Ghana, taught by master drummers Freeman Kwadzo Donkor and Abraham Kobena Adzenyah. In the song that follows, several themes happen simultaneously in regular time, double time, and half time.

5. Singing Bird Reprise - further explorations on the Singing Bird theme.

6. Recurring Dream is about two different dreams: one of the return of a loved one long gone, the other of a beautiful, optimistic vision of what can be. Following horn melodies and piano solo in a jazz/reggae feel, trumpet solos over a rhythmic framework adapted from the Adzohu dance drumming of the Fon people of Togo and Benin, whose bell pattern spans 24 pulses grouped in threes as eight dotted quarter beats.

7. Unspoken

All the words never said to you when you were here

Holding close sorrow unspoken

8. RH Reprise - an impromptu improvisation based on a 13-pulse phrase from Robeson House Echoes. The rhythmic cycle can be heard/felt in 6 beats.

credits: recorded, mixed and mastered by Jon Rosenberg at Systems Two, Brooklyn NY, Rich Lamb second recording engineer, cover drawing by Laura Lambie Wallace, photo by Steve Johnson, graphic design by Malin Abrahamsson