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This week’s new music sundae includes a little of everything we’ve been talking about on this blog. Some free improvisation, groove, formal improvisation, and composed original music. The title of the track is 2 Worlds, and it is the first movement of a three movement suite that I composed for my mom on mother’s day in 2007. Go ahead and get it up now so you can listen while you read.

The original instrumentation was much different, and included a percussionist, so re-writing the piece for our instrumentation was a  bit challenging. The original instrumentation was melodica (played by me when I wasn’t playing the trumpet, which transfers very nicely to accordion), trumpet, bass clarinet, acoustic bass, and percussion. I had the percussion part centered around the cajon in order to maintain a more chamber-like sound, rather than drum set.

As you can hear in the second section of the piece, at around 1:34, I had Evan, Cory, and Greg make percussive sounds on their instruments to fill in some of the missing compositional stuff that included a beat. Otherwise, I think the piece transferred nicely to a percussion-less ensemble.

When I was originally composing the piece (it was written as a final project for my jazz comp class in undergrad) I was going for a maria schneider-like section at 1:34, a sort of quasi-tango hinted in much of maria’s music. I was also trying to capture the way Dave Douglas integrates free improvisation in to his compositions. Specifically how he blurs the lines between what is written and what is improvised. It is certainly a more through-composed way of thinking. When I was re-writing the suite, I wanted make sure that I was still able to capture these qualities. I have recently adopted the slogan, “No more D.S.s!” as a part of my compositional personality. This piece definitely falls right in line with that mindset.

The free improvisation section that starts at about 2:40 is used as a transition to new melodic material that starts at 5:15. I wanted this section to include me (the trumpet) for the first bit, but for the majority of the improvisation to be between the guitar, accordion, and cello. I chose that partly because I think those instruments sound better leading in to my new melodic material, but mostly because those guys are so good I just love to listen to them play while I sit back and relax.

The new melodic material at 5:15 starts out with each measure being “on cue,” cued by the trumpet’s 2 eighth notes before each measure, and serves as an open blowing platform for the bowed cello. all over B minor. It slowly slips in to a groove and moves in to a completely composed section of only dotted half notes. There is no real melody that should stick out, the melody is more in the chord progression than anything else. Almost in a Charlie Haden’s “Silence” sort of way.

That then ties in to the original melodic material from the beginning of the tune that serves as a blowing platform for, well, me.

I actually had to go back and change the chord changes that were originally written during this final section because they were just plain wrong. Its amazing how long it has taken the mathematical part of my brain to catch up with my creative compositional side, but I think its almost there.

Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think about the piece. I want to know if you love it, and I want to know if you hate it. Be honest, but be gentle. I may be a large man, but im oh so fragile. oooooooooh so fragile. Here is the link again in case you missed it: 2 Worlds



  1. For all of you non-musicians wondering, “no D.S.s” stands for “no Del Signo” which is a musical symbol (that looks like DS) meaning, go back to such and such a point and then play to such and such other point and then either end or jump to this other little symbol. In essence, he’s saying that he doesn’t just want to bookend his pieces with the same material as a lazy way of finishing up.

  2. Leaving out the ‘DS’ or ‘DC’ is another way to make one’s music sound less conventional, because it’s a longstanding practice in ‘western music’ to bring back the primary theme of a piece – Rondo and Sonata form are both built on this idea, and jazz standards are traditionally played this way. It just goes to show that oftentimes it’s what’s NOT there that sets one piece apart from the rest of the cannon, and that’s something we’re focusing on, for sure.

    One thing I love about this piece is just how damned charming it is – the opening texture just makes me smile, the way the cello and accordion blend. I also really like the way Adam walks the line between composed and improvised music by having one bleed into the other, like watercolors. That might be a really lame simile, but I stand by it, because I might be a really lame simian.

    Beyond charming, I also find it very personal in a Dave Douglas kind of way (the cello-sound has a way of confiding in the audience) – even when it switches into the ‘pseudo-tango’. I feel like Adam had his heart on his sleeve when he wrote this piece, and it rubbed off on the score; this is the sensitive side of Adam that I’ve only glimpsed in everyday conversation. I can imagine that in order to be a successful trumpet player Adam had to get used to being the musical center of attention, being unable to ‘hide’ in the sounds of others – like a parrot hiding in a flock of pigeons. As always, it’s hard to tell if I’m totally full of shit or hitting the nail on the head – I leave it up to you to decide.

  3. You guys rock, did I win?

    • You did win! Come to a show and we’ll give you a handkerchief! Or you know, find us on the street or something.

  4. Or I could give it to Melissa at work and she could relay it to you….or better yet you could both come to our show at the Dakota on May 15th at 11:30pm!

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