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The Music of Carla Bley

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					The Music of Carla Bley

 Amy C. Beal (UC Santa Cruz)
        Romantic Notions #1
Romantic Notions (1987)
Eight solo piano pieces
Dedicated to Ursula Oppens, Alan Feinberg,
  and Robert Shannon
Premiered by Oppens in 1988
Reorchestrated in 1997
Lovella May Borg (b. 1936, Oakland, CA)

“I always did whatever interested me. I probably would
have compromised myself, but no one ever asked me to.”
“Doctor” (Jazz Realities, 1965/66)
 Christian Wolff, Darmstadt (1972):
“Freedom has come about by virtue of the fact that the
  avant garde has, until fairly recently, existed in a kind
  of social vacuum, it has not been taken up or supported
  by any of the normal social agencies, be they academic
  or be they the concert world. The normal establishment
  musical life has until very recently, and now only in
  very tentative ways, has made no effort whatsoever to
  do anything for this kind of music. So the composers of
  this kind of music have always felt a kind of
  indifference to, or lack of pressure from, certain social
  demands. They didn’t feel that they had to write music
  that would be pleasing to a particular kind of
  establishment.”
                Wolff, 1972, cont.:

“This isn’t to say that they didn’t feel economic pressures,
  they weren’t free in that sense, but they were
  artistically or aesthetically free. If you reflect on that a
  little bit you can see there are both advantages and
  disadvantages to that condition. It’s obviously a very
  good atmosphere in which to grow up, and in which to
  find what you need to find, and what you can do
  musically, but on the other hand, you pay a very great
  price for this sense of isolation, of being cut off.”
              Carla Bley:
“Almost everything I’ve written has been
covered, which means quite an income for me.
And I live very comfortably. And I feel proud
and sort of like a shining example, mainly
because I’m independent. I don’t belong to a
stable. I’m not a pet of the recording industry. I
put out my own records. We book our own
band. I have my publishing company. I have
my own recording studio. Everything I do is
totally controlled by me. I’ve never had to
compromise one bit.”
 Nat Hentoff on NMDS (1984):
“NMDS is an exceptionally valuable network for people
  who need music to make sense of the world and
  themselves. And that‟s an understatement. When I was
  a kid I used to buy Harry Partch records by mail direct
  from Harry Partch. It was exciting, getting the music
  from the musician. I cherished those records—both for
  what was in them, and the freedom they represented.
  And that‟s what NMDS is distributing. Freedom.”
      Steve Swallow on Bley:
“Despite Carla’s insistence that she’s just trying to write
  like Ernie Wilkins, she ruthlessly rejects cliché in
  everything she does. Over the years she has evolved a
  personal melodic vocabulary based on unexpected but
  entirely logical intervallic relationships. She has also
  synthesized a harmonic vocabulary from a variety of
  sources. She has an extraordinary ear. She was the first
  person I’m aware of to develop an understanding of
  Thelonious Monk’s voicings, for example. She has
  perfect pitch, and can sing the notes in the voicings of
  incredibly dense harmonies. I’ve heard her do this to
  music by Charles Wuorinen, perhaps her favorite
  composer.”
               Types of Music

Miniatures (early short pieces)
Early “Songs Without Words”
JCOA Concept Albums
Liberation Music Orchestra
Other Arrangements/Orchestrations
Additional Work For/With Others
Fancy Chamber Music
Big Band/Very Big Band
Duos with Swallow
Other Small Ensembles
             Miniatures
            (“haiku style” )
        [early short pieces, 1958-64]
Donkey
O Plus One
Bent Eagle
And Now The Queen
Ictus
Vashkar
Flags
Walking Woman
      Early recorded work:
1. “O Plus One”
  (Paul Bley, Solemn Meditation, 1958)

2. “Bent Eagle”
(George Russell, Stratusphunk, 1960)
 Early “Songs Without Words”
         (ca. 1961-75)
Sing Me Softly of the Blues
Ida Lupino
Útviklingssang
Jésus Maria
 JCOA/CBBB Concept Albums
A Genuine Tong Funeral (Gary Burton) [1967]
Escalator Over the Hill [1968-71]
  “Why”
  [“Vashkar”] “Rawalpindi Blues”
Tropical Appetites [1973]
  “The Funny Bird Song”
Dinner Music [1977]
Musique Mecanique [1978]
Carla Bley Big Band Goes To Church [1996]
Looking For America [2003]
          Additional Arrangements
            and Orchestrations
Carl Ruggles
Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra
National Anthems
We Shall Overcome
Christmas Carols
Spanish Civil War Songs
El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido
Samuel Barber
Antonin Dvorak
Soon I Will Be Done With the Troubles of This World (trad. Spiritual)
Nick Mason, Fictitious Sports
Kurt Weill, Nino Rota, Thelonious Monk (Hal Willner)
     “Fancy Chamber Music”

More Brahms (1986)
Romantic Notions (1987)
End of Vienna (1993)
Wolfgang Tango (1998)
        Bley on “Over There”
“Over There could be imagined as a tug between classical waltz
feel and jazz waltz feel. The player starts off in a standard
Viennese waltz fashion, but before long, a few syncopations are
creeping into the left hand and a swing time-feel gradually takes
over. Even „rhythm and blues‟ phrases pop up, although the early
form and chord changes remain unchanged. One R&B inspiration
was the Holland/Dozier/Holland song recorded by the Supremes,
“Where Did Our Love Go?” That song is an early favorite of
mine, and there are quotes from it sprinkled here and there, and
references to the way the words “Baby Baby” and the background
was sung. The title Over There is an accidental quote of a World
War II patriotic song. An entertaining discovery was that the title
happens to answer the question of the earlier mentioned Supremes
song.”
          The Final Word?
“The last four bars should be played with a
  strong and rhythmic jazz feel, having, so
  to speak, the final word.”

				
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