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12 March 2010


dave chisholm

i love these posts, man.
keep 'em coming.

Russell Scarbrough

I'm fascinated by how you conducted this - in 3, I guess, from what you said at the top. It's certainly an example of a big band piece that "needs" a conductor. Is there video of this you could post?


Hi Russell,

Unfortunately "Zeno" wasn't included in the WHYY broadcast -- on our YouTube Channel, there is a video of an early performance of the piece that Jon Wikan shot (by placing the video camera on the piano lid), but I'm not in the frame. You do get an excellent view of Jon's pandeiro playing, though.

RE: the melody, that part would actually be a bit easier for those players if I conducted it in 6 (especially the 4-over-3 pickup figures), but I do actually conduct the whole thing in a "big 3."


Thanks for this, DJA. Great insight. Re: writing the melody, did you conceive it with those exact rhythms or did you first write it "straight" and then displace it later?


Hi David,

I came up with the melodic contour first. I had some approximate ideas about duration, but then I had to "lock in" a particular interpretation of the melody that I liked. I wasn't really thinking about "displacement" -- more about what rhythmic interpretation seemed most flowing and lyrical.

I guess in a way it's kind of like interpreting a standard -- the rhythms in the published sheet music were only ever intended as a very general jumping-off point for singers, who were expected to make it their own. Except that after I've found an interpretation I like, I have to render it in music notation.

Lucas Gillan

I love these posts! Really, really looking forward to more. I love your concept of melody, letting the flow of the melodic contour determine the rhythm. More composers need to embrace that.

Quick question: do you ever hear the B-7(b6) as more of a G major add 9 in first inversion? I often find my ear going there.


Hi Lucas,

do you ever hear the B-7(b6) as more of a G major add 9 in first inversion

Not here, but stay tuned...


I am loving this series. I'm curious, how are you rehearsing a piece like Zeno (or any Secret Society piece, really)? Do you work with small groups and then bring the whole Secret Society together? Or is everybody playing/building the piece all at once?


Hi Lee,

I rehearse with the full band. The group did do a few sectionals before going into the studio (of their own volition - the players got together without me), and very occasionally we'll do a rhythm sectional if there's something particularly tricky that needs shedding.

Jonathan KipP

This stuff is like gold. Thanks for making the old cogs turn.

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