My grandfather was an important part of my life. The first music I listened to were records he would give me of his favorite classical pieces. I would play Mozart and Beethoven on our home phonograph and really try to follow what was happening musically, as per his instructions (This was not music you could get in one listen like a rock song, he would say). One of my favorites was Mussorgsky''s "Pictures at an Expedition", a suite that I arranged for a 9 piece jazz band years later. I used Moussorgsky''s original piano score which provided a great lesson in harmony and composition retained in the music herein.
My grandfather and I would have discussions about music all through my life. He hated Bartok (one of my favorites), along with most other modern composers. His favorite was Bach. He especially loved the cantatas. He thought it ironic, being a jew, that his favorite music was about Jesus.
When the seeds of this suite started to germinate it was this religious oxymoron that was the impetus. I decided to start writing a series of Bach style chorale''s using Jewish scales to create a sort of Jewish equivelant to Bach''s christian ones.
I wrote 4 and forgot about the project for a few years. I came back to it when I realized my grandfather didn''t have much time left. He was dying of Alzheimer''s and after 10 years of slow decline his health was deteriorating quickly. There was no logical point in finishing this piece before he died, because in his mental state he had lost all of his passion for music. It would not have meant to him what it would have in his cognizant years. (Actually,I think he would have been proud, weird harmonies and all.)
Samuel 1- this is one of the original pieces I wrote for this project, using the jewish chorale style. This melody symbolizes my grandfather and is the main theme of the piece.
...to end all...- this is the official start of the story. the setting is World War One Poland, in the small village of Baronovitch where my grandfather was born without the aid of a doctor. I''ve been told many stories about these early years, and he is very lucky to have survived the amount of fighting that went on in the first few years of his life. Like the War it''s named after, this piece is long, intense and ugly.
My Country- My grandfather arrived with his family in America at the age of six. His father had gone to America years before to find work and get settled before calling his family over. When he arrived he asked his father "Are you my daddy?" as he had never seen his dad before. This piece tries to put America in an optimism that is harder to feel today. It has a quirky off kilterness that represents an ugliness just under the surface.
Betty- this piece is about my grandmother, whom my grandfather was married to for close to 60 years. (she died 2 years before he did). Their relationship was tumultuous love at best and I wanted to capture the beauty of her life ( the waltz feel), but I also wanted to hint at an inner sadness (the minor key).
Blackrock Turnpike- this piece refers to the street my grandfather developed real estate on, creating a huge jumble of shopping centers, grocery stores and restaurants. The opening strings mimic construction noises and slowly build to create a bustling flow of traffic and progress. My grandfather told me that when he moved to Fairfield Connecticut, Blackrock Turnpike was just a dirt road.
Samuel 3- Originally titled "Alzheimer''s" this piece represents my grandfather''s slow decline to this disease and his eventual death. The first part of this piece was part three of the original samuel series, hence the name samuel 3. The second half was added on much later and symbolizes the disease (this part repeats incessantly as my grandfater would when he spoke) and his death ( the funeral march feel).
some technical notes on the music
For this suite I decided to use different variations on the harmonic minor scale, the backbone of most klezmer and jewish songs. While I originally used the scales traditionally, when I came back to the suite, I decided to experiment with some of the lesser used modes of the harmonic minor scale. Aside from scales starting on the first fourth and fifth scale degree, which are used frequently in jewish and other musics, I ended up using scales starting on the second, third, sixth and seventh scale degrees, which to my knowledge are almost never used, jewish or otherwise. I more or less picked a different scale degree for each movement and then used my musical intuition as to when and how far to divert from it.
"Dancing into One" notes
This piece pretty much fell into my lap considering how complicated commissions can usually be. A friend recommended me to Beth Burns of the Saint Joesph Ballet who contacted me about collaborating on a piece to be performed by students of her ballet school (for more info go to https://www.tradebit.com). not thinking I would get the job, I sent a burned cd written on with magic marker, and some notes about it scribbled in pencil on a piece of music paper. I guess the music spoke for itself because i got the job with great excitement from the choreographer.
I will say here that this is perhaps the first time I''ve been treated like a professional, both financially and personally. ( The choreographer and company acted as if it were an honor to be working with us!) Also I was flown down to orange county 2 times to check the progress of the dance, as well as compensated to bring a full five piece band from san francisco to perform for three nights.
about the music
I wrote this music while dealing a difficult personal relationship. I was in love with someone who didn''t feel the same, and I only mention this personal information because I think it is incredibly transparent in the music. There is a lot of passion and longing here, and my only misgiving is that the piece ends on a positive note. It worked for the dance, and i''ve included it to give the listener a better idea of the actual performance.
"The Samuel Suite"
Aaron Novik- clarinet, bass clarinet, compositions
Darren Johnston- trumpet
Dan Cantrell- accordion, piano, fender rhodes, hammond organ, lowery organ
Nathan Clevenger- guitar
Sky Chari- flute
Patrick Cress- alto sax
Cornelius Boots- bari sax
Marc Bolin- trombone, tuba
Lisa Mezzacappa- bass
Tim Bulkley- drums
Sara Jo Zaharako- violin
Alisa Rose- violin
Dina Maccabee- viola
Alex Kelly- cello
"Dancing into One"
(performed by the Yiddiots)
Aaron Novik- clarinet, bass clarinet, compositions
Dina Maccabee- violin, viola
Dan Cantrell- accordion, bass accordion, saw
Mark Bolin- trombone, bass trombone, tuba
Jason Levis- drums, gongs, percussion
recorded and mixed by Eli Crews at New Improved Recording 2006. Mastered by John Greenham. Cover drawing by Andre Karpov, from the passport photo of my grandfather''s family. Design by Ember Harker.
special thanks. My family. all the musicians who played on this record. John Finkbeiner, Jess Ivry, Margo Ostrovski, David Arend.
This file is sold by music, an independent seller on Tradebit.