A composition for E♭ alto saxophone. Part study in extended techniques for the saxophone (microtonality and multiphonics), part improvisation, and part dedication to the fall of empires past, present, and future.
I recently began digging up old recordings and compositions I wrote between 2000 and 2004. Trip down memory lane.
One of the recordings is of a piece I composed and performed in January 2004. It was created for a composition class I had with Dr. Stuart Saunders Smith during my last year at UMBC. This class was unreal. Dr. Smith was unreal; he was extremely poetic, eccentric, unconventional, and sometimes uncomfortable. But, hands down, one of the most influential people I met while in school. He broadened my imagination and appreciation for new music. He taught me a lot of unconventional compositional techniques and how to notate them. Before studying with him, I had no idea how to break traditional form of music notation. Learning from him, I was introduced to the graphic notation of other composers as well as the idea that sometimes anything goes with notation and form and as a composer, as an artist, you have free reign to do what you choose. If you can convey certain tones, shapes, and ideas through your own notation with general clarity and understanding, then go for it. That idea stuck with me. I liked the freedom.
This piece, which I called “Empire”, was written for E♭ alto saxophone. The goal at the time was to compose and notate a piece to be part study of extended techniques for the saxophone (in this case, both microtonality and multiphonics), part study to convey these techniques through notation, and part improvisation.
I think I had in mind creating something like Christian Lauba meets the atmosphere of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. In retrospect, I wish I had not added reverb and delay to the recording, because I no longer have the original track and I’m stuck with this effect now. But it was a specific moment in time so…let it be. Maybe I will record another someday. I think the mics and room at Retromedia would do this more justice than my university’s studio.
The Grammy Awards. Yeah. Bon Iver definitely deserved his win as did Adele for her incredibly strong talent; Foo Fighters hands down deserved their win as well. Dave Grohl made a comment while accepting his award that hit the nail on the head. You can search for it on Google or YouTube if you for some reason didn’t catch what he said, but in short, he laid it out that substance and truth in art still matter; the heart and the mind as elements in art reign supreme when all is said and done. That right there was a highlight of the evening.
I’m continuing to work on new music and I’ve started two new videos this week. Feeling a new breath of inspiration. There are so many amazing artists of all mediums out there; some are known, some are unknown, some have been long dead, some are in their youth and have a lifetime of creativity ahead of them. But they are out there learning and creating. There is so much to learn in this world. How can anyone be bored when there is so much to learn?
Scott Liss – vocals, guitars, percussion
Gianni Scalise – bass guitar
Chris Donofrio – drums
Erik Rudic – shredding guitar solo on track 1
All words and music written and arranged by Scott Liss.
Produced and Recorded by Paul Ritchie
at Retromedia Sound Studios in Red Bank, NJ.
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music in New Windsor, NY.
For the best quality that Youtube can offer, change the settings to watch it in HD. It makes a good bit of difference… the audio and video is much better than standard. If it plays choppy, just let it load in full before you play it. You know.
I’ve been working on a music video for one of the new songs I’ve recorded. It involves animation achieved by filming with a camcorder a series of picture discs spinning on a turntable… the process is sort of like what is called a phenakistoscope, an early type of animation based on the principle of persistence-of-vision, but modified in a few different ways.
The process was a lot of trial and error to achieve the proper results, but a hell of a lot of fun to do while learning. I had a few questions early on and was fortunate enough to get some answers from an animator/artist by the name of Graeme Hawkins, aka Retchy, from all the way over in Scotland. Good dude… he pointed me in the right direction from the start when I was figuring things out.
I’m intrigued by different types of animation, especially adapted forms of early techniques. This was the first video I’ve ever made for anything, aside from filming the Elliott Smith cover a few months back, but that doesn’t count.
I will be releasing this soon so be sure to check back shortly.
For the moment, here are some of the picture discs I made that were used in the video:
And here are some screenshots from the video itself:
Elliott Smith was/is one of my favorite songwriters. I feel a strong connection to his music. The way he used melody, his chord progressions, atypical phrasing, thoughtful lyrics, etc….wholly impressive. His songwriting and arrangements, very much influenced by classical music, was unique unto him. He was also influenced by one of my favorite bands, the Beatles. There’s just something very special about his music.
I got to see Elliott play live once in Brooklyn at a venue called Northsix. I feel fortunate for having gotten to see him.
He died in 2003 on this day, October 21.
I don’t frequently play cover songs but I wanted to do this as a slight nod to Elliott Smith and his music.