This weekend (tonight, even!) we are very excited to be hosting our friend Gregg Belisle-Chi, a composer and guitarist. Not so long ago, Gregg was a Seattle resident frequently seen gigging around town. Recently, after finishing his Masters degree at UW, he and his wife relocated to New York for the next adventures in their lives. It's always a treat when Gregg returns to Seattle, so we're stoked to have him present for us.
Gregg has written a nice blog post for us, which you can find below. Read on, and when you're done, make your way to Cafe Racer by 8pm on Sunday to catch his works.
"For this curation, I’ll be presenting my piece “Book of Hours,” with Daniel Salka (keys), Mark Hunter (bass), and Thomas Campbell (drums).
This composition has been ever-evolving since I began working on it in 2014. It began as a ritual of only listening to Mass settings, from as early as Palestrina all the way through Stravinsky, learning how different composers dealt with setting the same text throughout history and seeing the progression of counterpoint, harmony, voice leading, etc.
I began composing my own “Mass” for an instrumental ensemble of guitar, drums, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, two trumpets, and violin, a five movement piece based on the text of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Every melody is set to the text of those movements. This iteration debuted in 2015. From there, I re-arranged and re-orchestrated the Mass into a trio setting of guitar, Rhodes, and drums. This slimmer instrumentation meant more responsibility (fewer instruments providing more information) as well as more flexibility and room for improvisation. This iteration was retitled “Miserere Nobis,” meaning “have mercy on us.”
Around the same time, I began writing a series of solo guitar pieces, one of which (entitled “Book of Hours”) was obnoxiously difficult to play. This solo piece was rearranged into three movements; Aurora, Zhur, and Dusk, re-orchestrated for quartet of guitar, electric bass, keys, and drums, injected into “Miserere Nobis", leading to a retitling of the whole gamut into “Book of Hours.” This is, I hope, the final iteration of this piece before I record in the winter.
I want acknowledge and thank all the musicians in Seattle and New York that have performed some part of this music, helping me research and develop it. Those musicians are: Cuong Vu, Ray Larsen, Ian Mengedoht, Adrian Noteboom, Steve Treseler, Gwen Franz, Ted Poor, Carmen Rothwell, William Mapp, Tim Carey, Daniel Salka, Mark Hunter, Thomas Campbell, Dov Manski, Matt Aronoff, Michael W. Davis.
This piece, as a whole, has gone through many stages of evolution, much like the process of improvising/composing. Taking small ideas and moving them through different permutations, variations, creating small and large forms within established parameters.
For the session, I would ask participants to focus on development. Start with a very small idea (this could be notes, sounds, gestures) and run it through various permutations. Break down your idea into the smallest components, turn it inside out, and negotiate the musical landscape, provided by the other musicians, and navigate your way through creating a coherent piece. Focus on how your idea interacts with other ideas being played and try to develop that collectively.