STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 3

The Collaborative Painting Continues: Drawing it Out 

Once we started defining the composition, the painting moved rapidly. It is a small piece, 12″ x 6″, which happens to be one of Michele’s favorite sizes. Basically we were both arranging our own 6″ x 6″ squares, and making them harmonize. I tend to do my drawing filling in spaces with paint. Michele lays out the elements in line drawings. She learned to not start painting until her drawing is complete.

.

  Here we’ve made a great leap forward, once Michele started laying in color, and I started to get detailed.

.

Next up: completion.

.

Read the series

.

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 1

.

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 2

Advertisements

MUSIC: Remodernism Resonates with Composer George Pepper

MC Escher: Inspiration for a Perpetual Canon by George Pepper 

 

One of my sayings is, “if your life is not a spiritual adventure, you’re doing it wrong.”  It applies to music as well.  I feel connected to the Holy Spirit when I’m in the zone composing.

 -George Pepper 

A mighty wave is crashing through the culture. The elitist strategy of Postmodernism has gone stale, and people are tuning out the institutions it has corrupted. The crisis of relevance that the visual arts have been undergoing for decades has spread. Now the media, entertainment, sports even, are paying the price for converting themselves into virus-like Postmodern replication vehicles. In larger society, viewership and trust are way down.

A healthy art movement spreads its influence into positive developments across varied forms of expression. As I’ve written about Remodernism in this blog and elsewhere, many have reached out to me to share their stories. Many truly creative people have been exiled by an establishment art scene that promotes the falsities and facades of Postmodernism.

Music is the most visceral of the arts. It puts the outpouring of the human spirit into a form that can be physically felt. This is probably why the efforts to redefine serious music was one of the least successful areas of the Modernist gambit. Nobody wants to listen to the meandering, atonal noise offered up as a substitute for the thrilling beauty of great music. Listen to this selection by Anton Webern, if you want to be bored: Symphonie op.21. Like the old joke goes, if you get near a song, play it.

Postmodernism made things even worse, like it does. It brought us John Cage. His masterpiece was 4’33. Spoiler alert: it’s 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Watch it “performed” here, if you’ve got some time to waste. Such a gimmicky mockery of the artistic abilities of humanity.

Charles Thomson and Billy Childish, the co-founders of the art movements Stuckism and Remodernism, were both musically engaged. Childish, with his band Thee Headcoats and its many mutant offshoots, in particular spawned a whole subgenre of punky garage rock, such as Thee Oh Sees. But there’s more to music than thrashing guitars.

Based on what I’ve been exposed to, I assumed there was no one who was interested in creating music with the same ambition, scale, and profundity of traditional music. Thank God for the internet! It proved me wrong again. A link from Instapundit  led composer George Pepper to contact me.

He had an intriguing story to share about his own life. He responded to the spiritual emphasis of Remodernism, in contrast to the soulless stylings of most contemporary culture. George understands we need to build on the traditions of the past to create a vibrant contemporary culture. Best of all, he shared his work with us: graceful, soaring, inspirational music.

This is his five-voice Ricercare for symphony orchestra, the last movement of his first symphony.  It is filled with perpetual canons and was inspired by the art of M.C. Escher, who he had loved since he was a boy.

http://www.hucbald.com/Fugal_Science_01/FS_V2_N4.aif  (download)

This sonata he describes as a thought experiment: what if J.S. Bach knew the swing style?

Remodernism is rising to take the place of crumbling Postmodernism. Although it started in the visual arts, there will be Remodernist authors, film makers, and composers as well. Remodernism will reprogram and improve the efforts and expectations for the arts across society. Remodernism as a creative force is accessible to anyone who works with integrity to create the timeless, uplifting communal experience of art.

I asked George Pepper to share his experiences as he pursued his craft, moving against the ideological tides that have diminished our culture. It is a Remodern story.

Question: When did you begin your musical training? What was the first instrument you learned? Who influenced you? 

George Pepper: The first albums I asked my parents to get me were Meet the Beatles and Beatles ’65, so I was about six or seven when Beatlemania hit. Saw the movie Help at a Saturday matinee, and so I was a huge fan. Later I got into all the wonderful popular music of the 60’s. Everything from Peter, Paul and Mary and Burl Ives through The Mamas and the Papas to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Motown too. My taste has always been eclectic and fairly inclusive.

I didn’t start my musical training until sixth grade, when I took violin lessons for a year. That got me started with the basics of reading music and the mechanics of string instruments. Seventh grade I made an abrupt shift to trombone, so I learned how brass and wind instruments worked, and bass clef that year. Then in eighth grade I was at a school that had guitar classes, so that was that. We learned easy guitar pieces like “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” and others in that vein, so I learned the open chords that year.
 .
Q: How did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a vocation?
 .
GP: It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I realized I didn’t love anything in life as passionately as music. I had gotten pretty good on the guitar by then with the usual garage bands one went through in those days – I was just before the Wayne’s World generation, and of course I had the Frampton Comes Alive album, which came out my senior year – so my plan was to go to Berklee [music college in Boston -Ed.].  However, I decided to attend Texas A&M for two years to get the required courses out of the way. I didn’t want any distractions from music at Berklee. Then, a miracle occurred. Two guitar teachers from The Guitar Institute in California opened up The Guitar Institute of the Southwest in San Antonio, along with jazz guitar legend Herb Ellis.  It was a one year course, and I used it as a prep school for Berklee.  My earliest compositions that I’ve kept are from that time. A bossa nova that is an Aria in a sonata for two guitars now, a samba I’m planning to use for a guitar concerto, and a swing tune that is now the scherzo of my first sonata for solo classic guitar. Those were in the bag before I got to Berklee.
 .
At Berklee I took the Professional Music degree program, which was their, “build your own degree” offering. I was going to major in Jazz Composition and Arranging, but it required a portfolio of pieces, and I knew they would be half-baked if I was forced to check off boxes. Many people used PM to make an easy degree, but I took every theory and composition course Berklee offered. A swinging jazz fusion piece from that time ended up as the scherzo in my sonata for two guitars, so I throw jazz pieces into my classical compositions. It’s a natural part of me, and that’s that.
 .
Q: What were your experiences as you studied music in higher education?
 .
GP: Berklee was a 24/7/365 blast. Just a wonderful experience all around. I developed so much those years – I went every semester including two summers, fall of ’80 to graduation in May of ’83 – that I was an entirely different musician when I got out. It was a super productive whirlwind.
 .
After my rock band and electronic music days in NYC, I decided at 30 I’d had enough of that, and went to Texas State University (Then Southwest Texas State) for an MM (Master of Music) in traditional theory and composition. I figured a small program would allow me more freedom and would also allow me to rectify any shortcomings in my understanding of traditional theory and composition. As an aside, I began my voracious study of classical theory/comp when I was in NYC. Every week I’d go to Joseph Patelson Music across from Carnegie Hall and buy a theory or composition book. I was writing simple counterpoint pieces for classic guitar by then, and had eight keepers by the time I started at SWTSU. It was there that I first encountered some resistance to my quest, which I was quite firm about. But the school’s only composition prof was a fan of atonal music, which I always detested. It was a weird situation, because I was a professional musician and 31 years old, and I didn’t even consider him a peer of mine. But we got along well enough that I was able to earn the degree, but then another weird thing happened. When I got the degree, it was in Music Education and not Theory. A much more marketable degree than Theory! I never did get an explanation for that.
 .
During that stint, I composed my first keeper fugue, and another half-dozen guitar studies, plus six or so preludes.  So I was on a roll by this time.
 .
I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I wanted to get a PhD in Theory, a PhD in Composition, or a DMA (Doctor in Musical Arts) in Composition. The Composition PhD and DMA programs were the same except for the thesis; the DMA didn’t have one, but they both required a composition of about twenty minutes duration. I decided I’d had enough theory, and I just wanted to compose. So, I went to The University of North Texas to pursue a DMA in comp. It was there that I began to encounter more direct conflict. I’m kind of a larger than life character in some ways, and these comp profs were very strange people to me. A couple of them flat out didn’t want me to compose traditional music! I had to toe the line with their postmodern views, or they wouldn’t award me the degree. Well, again, I considered myself to be a better musician and composer than any of them, so I wan’t going to do that. I took all the coursework, and composed a lot more great music, and then I moved on to greener pastures. But before I left, I had to play a colossal joke on them. I composed a subjective bit of BS I called “Division.” It was based on random pitch wedges opening and closing, and it was just valueless as music. The comp profs loved it! I didn’t say anything, but it was hard to keep a straight face.
 .
I composed another set of guitar studies, more preludes, my first sonata process pieces, a fugue in J.S. Bach’s late Art of Fugue style – a huge breakthrough – and a fugue on a subject that is a twelve-tone row just like the atonal guys used, only it’s beautiful and not ugly.  Beating those guys at their own game was deeply satisfying.  So, I went on to other things and kept composing.
 .
Q: What are some of your favorite compositions you’ve created?  
 .
GP: I have a literal lifetime of pieces now, and they have to have, “the magic” for me to keep them, so it’s not an easy task to single out a few. I would say the traditional Scherzo I wrote while still in NYC was a breakthrough piece – it’s in a pre-sonata I call Sonata Zero now – and the fugue I wrote at SWTSU was another. The J.S. Bach style fugue for sting quartet I wrote at UNT is a biggie, as are the two super-fugues I call Ricercares; One that is the Finale of Sonata One for solo guitar (Composed in 2005 after years of prep work), and the other is in five voices for symphony orchestra (From 2013, again, after many years of research: Ricercare means a researched piece).
 .
But there’s also the electronic pop music I wrote in my twenties that is just otherworldly, and the jazzy pieces are also all gems. Those electronic pop pieces are arrangements of band pieces I did on the Synclavier, which was bleeding edge tech at the time.
 .
Q: How does music express spirituality?
 .
 GP: It always has for me. Even music by other composers moves my spirit. And lots of genres too. The first thing I learned to jam on was the blues, so Stormy Monday Blues is one I’d say moves my spirit. Then lots of Charlie Parker, Larry Carlton, Jimi Hendrix – “Rainy Day Dream Away/Still Raining Still Dreaming” always moves me – The Who – I wore Quadrophenia out in high school – many others.  In classical music, my single favorite piece in all of the symphonic literature is the Scherzo from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It is, in fact, my first musical memory. When I was really little, like three to five years old, that Scherzo was the intro music to the Huntley Brinkley Report news program. My dad watched it every night, and I would just stand there spellbound until it faded out. I remember it like it happened five minutes ago. But that piece takes me on a spiritual journey, as does the opening movement and the slow movement. The Finale, for some reason, doesn’t really work for me.  It’s a sublime masterpiece by any objective measure, but it’s stubborn or something. The vocals and chorus don’t help for me. In fact, I actually prefer Liszt’s transcription of the finale for solo piano!
As a composer, every genera I touch has to move me spiritually. Latin jazz was the first jazz I fell in love with and started composing. Then swing, bebop, and fusion. Pop in my band days in NYC, with electronic on the side. Finally, classical. The feeling of spiritual connectedness is the same in whatever genera I’m working in, and the sense of satisfaction is profoundly deep when I complete a piece. Larger forms are deeper, but the euphoria after creating a simple and novel tune is indescribable. Just last year I wrote a Waltz. It was inspired by a theory and composition book I was studying. One of the examples was of a melodic formula Mozart used in several compositions, that was already ancient when Mozart discovered it. I took it someplace entirely different, and it ended up as the Scherzo for Sonata Three, which is for solo guitar again (Sonata Two is for two guitars). I listened to it over and over. It’s just a pluperfect little gem.
 .
One of my sayings is, “if your life is not a spiritual adventure, you’re doing it wrong.” It applies to music as well. I feel connected to the Holy Spirit when I’m in the zone composing.
 .
Q: How would you describe the state of music today?
 .
GP: Awful. Symphony orchestras are unionized and sclerotic, playing the same music my grandfathers listened to. String quartets are the same. Pianists are the same, and forget classical guitarists; some of the most arrogant and opinionated musicians there are (Many are cool too, but not nearly enough). There are two other composers of guitar music I like, and both are friends of mine.
 .
How many recordings of the Ninth do we need? If I never heard a Beethoven piano sonata again, it wouldn’t matter, because I have them all already! In a vibrant musical culture, conservatories would be producing composers with real, actual technique, and orchestras would have composition talent scouts.
 .
Q: What changes are needed in the music world?
 .
 GP: Real requirements for composition faculty at universities and conservatories. If I took over, I’d demand first a simple 32 bar tune in AABA form with eight bar phrases. Just harmony and melody. If they couldn’t pass that test, bye. Then, if they want to head the department, they better be able to compose a four voice fugue, otherwise, hit the road, Jack.
 .
As I mentioned above, orchestras should be open to playing new music, but that’s the catch-22; if there isn’t any good music, and/or they’re not looking for it, nothing will happen. I just do my thing and shake my head a lot.
 .
Also, get politics out of music. If your music is a political statement, it certainly isn’t art and it’s probably not even music at all (Talking about instrumental music here). And if your politics makes you tell other composers what they should and should not write, you’re just a talentless scold who should probably have nothing whatsoever to do with music. Much less should these people have teaching positions.
 .
In three years at UNT I heard exactly zero faculty compositions that were musical in the slightest. None of them could really, actually compose real, actual music. And this was in the 90’s, it’s way worse today.
 .
This is why I only compose instrumental music. Absolute music’s it’s also called. No words, just music.
 .
Q: What are you working on currently?
 .
 GP: A lot of things have started to gel over the past several years. Sonata Zero and Sonata One for solo guitar are settled in their final configuration now. Sonata Two for two guitars is 90% complete, and Sonata Three for guitar has just come together over the past few months. So Sonata Two is occupying my thoughts right now.
 .
I have managed to rescue the electronic music I composed in the 80’s last year – from thirty year old 5.25” floppies! – by getting a Synclavier again, and I’m going to release that this year.
 .
I’ve been working on a symphony since I was at Berklee, and one movement of that is now finished, the Ricercare for Orchestra. Plus, there are always a few ideas I’m tossing around in my head at any given time. I’d say only about one in ten ever see the light of day.
 .
Here’s the title track to the electronic album.  I’ve decided to realize all of my music with the Synclavier now. It’s the only instrument I was ever a virtuoso with. Almost all of the sounds I programmed from scratch.
 .
.
Yes, it’s an AIFF file.  I think you can get QuickTime free for any OS or browser now.
Edit: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.