Phil Salathé    


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January 31, 2017

On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the first performance in the Bakery Concert Series at Lake Flower Landing in Saranac Lake, NY, which turned out to be one of the most enjoyable new music events I've attended in some time. I found out about it thanks to Alphonse (Tom) Izzo, whose brand-new Tango Subterráneo was featured on the program. I've admired Tom's work since I first heard his piece Wunderkammer when we were both students at the University of Hartford's Hartt School of Music, and the Tango exemplified the deft humor and finely-wrought harmonic detail I associate with his music.

In fact, with the exception of guest artist Brian Donat, all of the featured composers and performers were Hartt School folks. The wonderful Robert Carl was my first composition teacher at Hartt, and the concert opened with his piece Garland [...]

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April 7, 2016

Yesterday, a colleague posted a link to this astonishing cover of Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T." by Jacob Collier:

Besides my amazement at the sheer virtuosity of it -- instrumental, vocal, compositional, and technical -- I was particularly struck by the elegant games Collier plays with rhythm and meter. This is what Harald Krebs (among others) would call "metrical dissonance": introducing a pulse that contradicts the written or assumed meter, as a means of adding tension, confusion, or dynamism to a piece of music.

I've always been drawn to rhythmic and metrical trickery, whether in the classical tradition -- say, the Menuetto from Haydn's Symphony No. 65, or the famous "Danse des adolescentes" from Le Sacre -- or in progressive rock and adventurous jazz, like this track from the criminally underrated band Happy the Man. By now, when a composer or performer attempts to pull the metrical rug out from under me, I can usually unpack what's going on before too long, especially in groove-based music with frequent repetition and explicitly periodic rhythms.

But the breakdown at 2:12 in Collier's arrangement left me completely stymied: was the new beat-unit triplets, or dotted eighths, or something else? How was it dropping so tidily back into 4/4? And what about the hand drum part: surely there was something going on there too?

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