More Album Notes for “Return from Panapolis”
CD Cover Art: Painted by Jessica Stapp
Graphic Designing: Ian Galloway
Trumpet: David Smith
Alto and Tenor Saxophones: Justin Wood
Guitar: Sebastian Noelle
Drums: Danny Fischer
Tuba: Ben Stapp
Guests: Alex Terrier – soprano (trks 3, 7), Curtis Stewart – violin (trk 8), Andy Hunter – trombone (trk3),
Amanda Brasher – voice (trk8), Isaac Darche – guitar solo (trk8)
Martin Vejarano – cajon (trk6)
All compositions by Ben Stapp
© 2012 Uqbar Music (BMI)
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at Peter Karl Studios
with Michael “Quinoa” Perez-Cisneros
2nd Engineer Paul Occhialini
The concept of Zozimos is basically a pool of musicians that I can call on to perform my music. Rather then limit myself to one band and one instrumentation, Zozimos has taken on many forms and played several different styles of my music. Zozimos first performed as a big band at the Tea Lounge, performing a group of pieces centered around the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, then as a funkadelic Quartet playing at Cornelia Street, as a Brass ensemble playing contemporary chamber music at the Stone, as a sextet again at the Stone, as a 10 piece chamber ensemble performing Eight Houses, an I-Ching inspired hour long piece with a set form incorporating open-improvised music, and composed sections at Roulette, and as a quintet that you will hear predominately on this CD with some extended instrumentation.
In the end, for practical purposes and for getting the material down onto a CD, I decided to orchestrate several of the mixed ensemble pieces down to a quintet form to have a polished well rehearsed group present a survey of the past music. These pieces were written between 2008 and 2011 and final revisions to some were made up until the recording session.
This CD is different from my debut CD, in that the forms are much longer, there is more written material, and aside from an arrangement of a tune from my first CD, the harmony is much more elaborate, stylized and uniform throughout. Working with Zozimos over the past 4 years, I was heavily invested in advancing my harmonic language. By the end of the CD I formulated my harmonic techniques into a treatise called “Micro-Functional Tonality,” but instead of publishing it, I decided a CD applying this technique/style would be more interesting then a paper on it.
On this CD I wanted to play around with longer song forms and feature specific instruments. The tunes on this CD usually have one or two unifying motifs and several episodes that take the band and music through different musical ‘looking glasses’.
It it is safe to say I’m a nerd when it comes to music theory, but I’ve realized over time, that people, including myself, want to hear applications of theory more then to just discuss them. But, when I compose music, I usually find my first inspiration from a theory first and then I seek to find a way to make it palpable to the ears, and in this case something that can work in a composed/improvised setting. But of course, that is just the skeleton, once I find myself deep into the
compositional process, there are strange emotional factors that go into the final product.
In the next couple of paragraphs I would like to just give a brief of overview of some techniques and how I used them in two pieces.
My concept, Micro-Functional Tonality(MFT), technically speaking, is a way to suggest tonality without relying on any particular key. The keys change rapidly so there are no key signatures. Also, the technique never uses a V – I progressions in the context of a key. The idea is that this technique is able to propel a sense of forward harmonic motion with no dissonance and with no key center. It differs from Schoenberg’s roving harmonies in that is uses tritone chords sparingly seeking to create a sense of development without dissonant chords. It is easy to write chords that are intrinsically dissonant and find its logical resolution in any number of consonant chords, but it takes further investigation to find out how consonant chords interact with one another outside the realm of a key signature. Micro-Functional Tonality sees a major scale and key as a bi-product of 1st and 2nd degree MFT progressions.
Schultz the Painter (drum and soprano feature)
is probably the most academic of pieces in that it uses a very strict rhythmic drone, inspired by Messiaen’s isorhythms and also 3rd related harmonies inspired by Brahms primarily; but it is an 8 chord progression (using only major and minor chords) that harmonizes a twelve-tone imbedded melody. The isorhythm completes it cycle after 2 full cycles of the chord progression, the second cycle is done a tri-tone away. The chord progression is, like most of the CD an example of Micro-Functional Tonality. The actual melody heard above the chords that the guitar plays is a 3 note, intervalic motif that expands and contracts as the tune makes 2 full cycles.
Gehry, Indiana (guitar feature)
Gehry, Indiana’s name comes from how the harmonic and melodic contours rises and falls like some of the strange buildings of Frank Gehry. Also, at the time I began writing this piece, it was announced that Michael Jackson died. Even though I was concentrating on the piece, I couldn’t help but feel that something in this piece was inspired by my reaction to MJ’s death. It might be only a very abstract relation, but nevertheless… Suffice to say I was not able to finish this piece until just before the recording. The beginning triads are another examples of MFT but the real investigation this piece brought for me was unifying the form and at the same time allowing for seemingly disparate sections to exist. Theoretically these section where one and of the same, but audibly it took some ear bending to decipher the connection. The whole piece is in 3/4 but dotted quarter notes in the beginning give off a two feel that rubs against a 9/8 melody feel. In the end 3 bars of 3/4 fit over two bars of 7/8 and one 2/4 bar. The dotted chords note two feel comes in at the end in the drums to juxtapose the two rhythmic feels.
Sincerely, Planet Mom (features voice, guitar and violin)
is a little different vibe from the rest of the CD but it is episodic and narrative in nature. The song shows two sides of a mother. One is that of a mom being proud of her progeny, the other is that of mother earth discussing nature’s order. One is a bright energy full of excitement, the other is one of sublime destruction. They meet in the end joined by the idea of love. When the theme in this song comes back it does so over the septuplet “rock-out” section, maintaining the energy of the fast section throughout till the end of the recapitulation (where the voice comes back in).