Stream of Unconsciousness
Early in my career, I tended to subscribe to the “1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration” School of Creativity. I was eager to accumulate knowledge about music and thought this would lead to understanding how to use it. Even when I started to become fascinated about improvisation, I thought it was a matter of learning techniques and developing practice regimens which mastered their use. This, of course, did not hurt me, but it only allowed me to progress so far.
In mid-career, I began to feel stale and studied for a while with composer Chinary Ung. He challenged me to work on my non-musical creativity. He told how much of his inspiration, and some of his actual musical decision making, had emanated from dreams and/or visions. His teacher and mentor, George Crumb, had been the same way. I was aware of composers in history who had worked this way, but this was the first time I had come across it first hand.
I was stymied, but began to re-examine my approach through improvisation. I thought that if I could empty my mind of preconception and resist any focus on technique, I might be able to improvise by simply allowing the sound of what I am doing trigger my response. It was difficult, but promising, and after several months I began to get the hang of it. But the experience put me in a mental state that was unfamiliar, and it always took me a while to recover afterwards.
This album is an exploration of that rather delirious but often creative state of mind. It starts out with a nod to one of the first “delirious” composers, Hector Berlioz. Reveries and Passions are the titles of the two sections of the first movement Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. The whole work is based on an opium dream about the woman with whom he had become infatuated. Fever (not the classic jazz tune) is about the unusual dreams and delusions one can encounter while ill. The next track is an Elegy, and hints at the state we sometimes enter when faced with the sudden passing of someone we love. The Mysteria alludes to another composer whose delirium and unbridled creativity was inspired by mysticism – the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. The Chorale and Response is an imaginary dialog between the voice of institutionalized reason and the voice of untethered creativity.
The last three tracks are aimed at a more specific delirium of mental or cultural unbalance. This Should Be Mine explores the disturbed mental state that can occur when we are consumed with jealousy, especially when we consider it just. But What If . . . considers the curse of regret and the assigning of fault, especially that which is directed within. The last track deals with the cultural affectation of Compulsory Obsession. Whether political, intellectual, or just a manifestation of employment, the force-feeding of “accepted” ideas can cloud judgement and trigger irrational behavior or neglect.