"Welcome to the official website for composer William Neil"

We have art so that we may not perish by the truth. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

The Mystery of New Music

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Could a musical composition and performance that invents itself from nothing into something be the new paradigm in contemporary music culture?   The very process of cultivating broad based support for a specific project through crowd funding is liberating for the artist and exciting for the audience.  It fosters an atmosphere of free and independent artistic work.  It is essentially a one of kind experience that is unfettered by the need to sell concerts just to fill seats or to court the continued support of a local foundation. Its all about doing it once and doing it well.

We live in a era that has put a price on culture.  Music in particular has evolved into an on demand experience.   Through instant downloading and file sharing,  it has become part of an endless chain of music past and present that saturate or ears without a present cultural context.  Often the only context is nostalgia.   I am suggesting that there is an alternative experience, an experience that promises to be a rich and fulfilling.

In David Byrne’s book  How Music Works,  he astutely describes how the music industry has changed through technology as it perfected the creation, promotion, and sales of recordings and then evolved into an industry producing inexpensive, mass manufactured goods sold for pennies or given way for  free.  I was particularly inspired by his definition of music of the past.   He said “music was something you heard and experienced, it was as much a social event as an aural one.  It was communal, and often utilitarian…music was a singular experience, something connected to a specific time and place.  It was part of the continuum, the timeline of your life, not a set of “things” that lived outside of it.”

His description of the way is was, strikes me as exactly what is missing in the experience of music of today.  Instead of accepting that technology has permanently changed how we experience music, perhaps we should be thinking about how we can use technology to restore the fullfillment that we have been missing.

The evolution of music is full of examples that have changed how we experience music.  A few examples from Bryne’s book include the creation of great cathedrals that enlivened the music that was performed within the space, Jazz musicians improvising the melody so the dancers could continue dancing, and creating recital halls so the harmonically complex passages and intricate melodics variations could be appreciated by the audience.  So, for the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work, I believe we need to focus on cultivating an environment, fiscal and artistic, that will inspire great performances and enrich the audience.

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The Mystery of Collaboration

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Many of our fans have asked “what is the fourth stream?”  Tom some years ago when we performed on WFMT Radio in Chicago made these remarks:  “FourthStream is the logical progression of the synthesis of composed and improvised music. We are approaching the music from the perspective where the composition serves to enhance the improvisation.”   Indeed, our recent developments include digital and video elements, not because we are interested in laying out a sensorial stimulus for our audience but because we want to channel a diversity of themes outside of the purely melodic and harmonic into our performance.  We essentially want to create a poetic environment  where higher levels of improvisation are induced.  Ideally we want to create a special kind of music that can only manifest itself on the stage at that moment.

I once had the silly notion that  I could take one of our improvisations that we recorded  and transcribe it for orchestra. Impossible!   One of these compositional enhancements that Tom was talking about include what I call “shadow music”   It is music that I bring to the live performance that grows emotionally and spiritually out of the ideas that we might have incubate at our rehearsal.  But the key to this music is to keep it in the shadows until the performance, introducing it spontaneously, just at the right moment  to take the music over the top or turn it in an unexpected direction. It serves to keep the element of the unknown alive so that we serve our ultimate goal of bringing the heard and the unheard to our performances.

Our collaboration brings to mind the significance of the chalice in the Christian liturgy.   The fact that it serves  to hold and contain something sacred reminds me of what we try establish on stage.  These four streams of improvisation, composition,  technology and imagery, encircle us and focus us on the center of our performance and then back to our own centres of concentration so that we may perform at our optimum level.

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