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SONGS OF EARTH - JESSICA WILLIAMS, piano, composer

liner notes for upcoming release

Of all of the planets in our solar system, only Earth provides the resources and conditions necessary for our survival. It seems to me that we’re all here to protect and provide for her, as she is here to protect and provide for us. It doesn’t matter if many thousands of rabid politicians, building contractors, or energy companies make many thousands of TV commercials to convince us otherwise. Their crafty words lose all meaning when compared to the Earth’s Wisdom when she raises her voice. Even her gentle whispers can seem to us a mighty roar. The shifting of a single tectonic plate can change or end the lives of multitudes.

 

The music that comprises this collection was all inspired by our Mother, the Earth, and by ourselves, her Children. Most of my music has always come from some "source" hidden to me: a spiritual mix of the natural world around me, the beautiful beings that inhabit that world, and my impressions of it all. I didn't intentionally set out to create this collection. It created itself through countless listenings of the raw recordings, as the separate pieces became a single story in my mind. It seemed as if I was subconsciously writing a novel about the hubris of our species, the majesty of our beautiful blue planet, and the potential for peace and balance within our shared space. It was a novel written in public, without the usual attendant stiffness and predictability of some thematic suites. The theme, while oceanic in scope, is musically subtle, because the intention of it did not exist during its performance.

SONGS OF EARTH is very different than other albums I have ever made. It contains much more pure improvisation. It refuses to declare itself of any genre, such as jazz, classical, new age, gospel, blues, etc. It contains all of the forms that I heard at the moment I played them. It contains very few (if any) pre-rehearsed lines, which in itself is gratifying to me. It exists only for the solo piano, it is symphonic in nature, and it adheres only marginally to any of my previous works in its forms and structures. It is as visual to me as it is aural, meaning that I see colors in it and shapes within shapes, archetypal designs and natural patterns within a lacework of fragile simplicity. And most important, I hear a mysterious quality that I am personally at a loss to explain.

For just one example, the first piece is entitled "Deayrhu" (pronounced day-roo) and I’m unable to tell you why it’s titled thus or even why it’s spelled this way. I knew when I played it, for the very first time ever, in front of a large audience, that its name was "Deayrhu". It may or may not be a 'real word' in any terrestrial language, but I believe that it’s a word (or a sound) that has meaning on some level. I heard the word as I played the piece. These kinds of experiences aren’t foreign to me, but they certainly are rare. Additionally, "Deayrhu" defined all of the pieces to follow when I began compiling this album for release.

 

I "wrote" all of the pieces here, with the exception of "To Be", which was written by the great saxophonist, John Coltrane. When I say "wrote", I mean "composed", but I do not necessarily mean written down on manuscript paper. The word "created" might be a better choice of wording for my process. I also wrote "Poem", and it was one piece that I actually notated, as I also did very sketchily for "Little Angel" (a previously unheard piece inspired by my Boston Terrier.) Those two creations are the only ones that were scribbled on paper, and the amount of notes actually written are far outnumbered by the amount improvised spontaneously. Often, the only reason for me to write anything on paper is so that I'll remember it.

"Montoya" is a tribute to the brilliant Spanish guitarist, Carlos Montoya. Disliked by critics for his refusal to play the "compas" in their traditional classical form, he was a maverick, and he played the Flamenco at any tempo he chose, which was often several tempi in one piece. His playing influenced mine dramatically when I first heard it, and I continue to hear the echoes of his guitar resonating in my piano. His freedom of expression was awesome and brave.

"Joe and Jane" is a thank-you and a sorrowful psalm to those who serve so bravely and at such cost to themselves in our military. Whatever politics one espouses, these men and women are worthy of our appreciation and our dedication to a more peaceful and loving future on this Earth.

"The Enchanted Loom" is a metaphor for the human brain, as described by neuroscientist Charles Sherrington in a passage from his 1942 book, 'Man on his Nature', in which he describes what happens in the cerebral cortex during arousal from sleep. In his own words: "The great topmost sheet of the mass, that where hardly a light had twinkled or moved, becomes now a sparkling field of rhythmic flashing points with trains of traveling sparks hurrying hither and thither. The brain is waking and with it the mind is returning. It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of sub-patterns." The "loom" he refers to was undoubtedly meant to be a Jacquard loom, used for weaving fabric into complex patterns. And the drone and the structure of the piece very soon becomes East Indian, a sort of Raga in 5/4 time. The word raga actually translates to “color, beauty, and melody” in Sanskrit.

And lastly, John Coltrane's "To Be" is as free as my own Nature has driven me to become; I evade any stylistic reference, but after listening a few times I hear the "sheets of sound" of Coltrane's invention, and I hear the neoclassical musings of Claude Debussy and Eric Satie, as well as a very strong showing by my latest influence, Carlos Montoya. I hear the roar of the sea at times, especially at the end of my pieces, and I deeply appreciate the fact that my audiences wait at least a few seconds until I remove my fingers from the keys before applause ensues. I also appreciate the applause, of course!

With so many stylistic variations and so much freedom and with the wildly unusual methods of "composition", how does this all fit together?

I hope that it's very much like our Mother Earth. Diverse and placid, dramatic and whimsical, unpredictable and tranquil, all infused with millions and billions of flashing lights, all of differing colors and brightness. As the neuroscientist Sherrington put it, "it is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance." And we are at the center of it all.

I hope this brings you joy.

Jessica Williams, Apr 27, 2012

 

Deayrhu -7:43- Jessica Williams, JJWMusic/ASCAP
Poem -5:51- Jessica Williams, JJWMusic/ASCAP
Montoya -8:57- Jessica Williams, JJWMusic/ASCAP
Joe and Jane -7:14- Jessica Williams, JJWMusic/ASCAP
Little Angel -8:45- Jessica Williams, JJWMusic/ASCAP
The Enchanted Loom -6:22- Jessica Williams, JJWMusic/ASCAP
To Be -10:12- John Coltrane, JowColMusic/BMI

 

Jessica Williams, Steinway Model ‘D’ Grand Piano
Recordist, Craig Montgomery
Mixed by Jessica Williams in March 2012
Mastered by Dan Dean
Selections chosen from several live solo performances at The Triple Door in Seattle, Washington, USA
Produced by Jessica Williams and John Bishop for OriginArts Recordings

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