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MP3 James Falzone - The Sign and the Thing Signified

Creative improvised music at the intersection of jazz, classical, and world music idioms.

13 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Contemporary, JAZZ: Free Jazz

"Falzone is a remarkable, in-the-moment improviser - able, as few virtuosi can, to listen as intently as he sings. That this is very exciting music probably goes without saying; that is is also enlightening music is something that I think you will discover." Larry Kart, author of "Jazz in Search of Itself", Yale University Press.

Signs and Things Signified
I have been ever fascinated by semiotics, the study of symbols as they relate to human experience: language, stories, texts, films, faith, etc. How a “thing” can be interpreted as a “sign”, even when registered at the subconscious level, and can send a person down a whole thought path or way of acting.

An example: I was walking in my neighborhood and spotted a tree that had a leaf or two just beginning to turn from summer green to autumn gold. Seeing this sent me along a path of pondering the fall: certain foods I love to eat this time of year, certain clothes I wear only in fall before the really cold weather sets in, and the general sense of autumn ushering in the liturgical season of Advent, for me a time of intense faith renewal. These are all warm and positive thoughts and I found myself feeling light and full of hope even though my day had been filled with some particular frustrations. This whole thought flight, and the subsequent mood shift, was caused by what? A sign, the color of a leaf.

Music, of all the arts, is to me the one dabbling in symbolic meaning the most. What does a chord signify, really? Nothing. And yet everything when I hear and process it against other chords, in support of or in contrast to a melody, within the context of a larger work. And even more fascinating to me is improvised music which I think of as a kind of wrestling match with what one feels has significance. Navigating these significations is the task of both the ones making the music and the ones listening. And in the improvised moment, it all happens in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye.

Thus, The Sign and the Thing Signified. Much of this music was either conceived from the start or read back into after the creation, with symbolism in mind. Some of the more through composed pieces, Ten Months as example, have particular floating chords or quickly shifting textures, sculpted to represent a particular ten month period in my life. Other tracks, Cut, Tear, Curl or Jean Vel Jean, are completely improvised and it was only in retrospective listening that I thought through the signs, allowing my imagination to interpret the musical gestures of myself and my partners. Other pieces ebb and flow between the composed and the improvised mirroring, I hope, a sense of the perfections and imperfections of daily living.

At the same time, I was concerned about the pretense of all this and wanted to craft music which, if the listener had no idea nor care for my semiotic inclinations, could be enjoyed on other levels and could have layers of meaning assigned to it which I had never intended. I’m very comfortable with multiple meanings, multiplicity in life being partly what makes it worth living.

James Falzone
September 2006

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