Neil Welch - April 13, 2014
Capital, for 6 musicians
- Neil Welch, alto and tenor saxophones
- Ivan Arteaga, alto saxophone and bass clarinet
- Rachel DeShon, voice
- Gregg Belisle-Chi, guitar
- Chris Icasiano, drum set
- Greg Campbell, percussion
Two months ago late at night while driving home, a very beautiful, almost ecclesiastical piece for string quartet was playing on the radio. This was a night when my mind and spirit were eager to be filled with this sound at this moment. Again and again, minute after minute, the piece moved between only two sections. The composition was elegant, with a clear developmental process that made itself plainly known after only a minute of listening.
The piece pivoted between a single drawn-out chord, free of time, and a lush harmonized melody played at an achingly slow tempo. The sustained chord was always held for about the same amount of time at the same dynamic level. But the extraordinary magic was held within the melody and its harmonization. Each time the sustained chord finally broke free into this melody, the dynamic level and intensity of emotion would rise in the ensemble. It went on like this, patiently building, each time receding back to the safe haven of the sustained chord, waiting to rise up again into the melody.
I’ve set out so many times to write music that mirrored someone else’s work. The piece was written by the great composer Arvo Part., and experiencing it at the right time and place had a lasting impact on me. I wanted a taste of Part’s music from my own pen. When I sat down to begin writing, I quickly recognized that I can’t write an Arvo Part composition, nor do I really want to. In this composition I was really trying to express an experience. What eventually took shape in the music of Capital were influences partially rooted in this Arvo Part experience, but also a sort of mosaic from other lasting experiences over the past couple of months–listening to music, reading and reflecting. These included: reading A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, Karl Marx by Peter Singer, re-listening over and over to the albums New York, Fall 1974 by Anthony Braxton,Reverend King by John Coltrane, and The Sun by Alice Coltrane, as well as my ongoing fascination with Roscoe Mitchell's Nonaah.
The title Capital comes from my next project—reading Karl Marx’s epochal work of the same name. Naming this composition after something I’ve yet to experience is a kind of preemptive homage to a future influence.
I’m joined tonight by an amazing musical cast that will debut this new composition with me. I’m very grateful to Ivan, Rachel, Gregg, Chris and Greg for their time and energy.