A solo bass album: a few composition hints about my “Gestire lo Spazio”

It’s not easy to talk about one’s own music. What’s more I’m not used to doing it.

Gestire lo spazio – quite a challenging work!

However I thought it could be useful to provide a sort of listening guide to this solo bass album album. It is not a typical commercial product. And it does not present the classical features of an electric bassist’s album, either.

You can preview all tracks from itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/gestire-lo-spazio/id302511356

I decided to leave the title in Italian because it sounded effective and meaningful to me.

Sound space, the space in a cd, and the space a composer covers on music paper.

This project builds on the choice of exclusively using my 6-string electric bass, with a very limited “intrusion” of an acoustic piano.

And just like I do in my solo bass gigs, definitely no bass overdubbing.

There is a consequence to playing a solo instrument. It makes you work with what I have called implicit sound.

Harmony and rhythm leave melody alone, and melody is thus free to move on a chord layer which is present but is not explicitly played. You can feel it… but you cannot hear it!

As a matter of fact, the aim of this project was to hit the listener more through what is absent and less through what is present.

Of course I had to exploit the whole instrument range in order to overcome the sound limitations of the traditional bass (i.e. the bass used as a backing instrument).

This cd alternates structured compositions (or pieces I have deeply meditated before recording), and more improvised tracks.

The recording sessions required over ten days of work, during which I rejected lots of material I was not satisfied with. In the end, the product I have been able to assemble seems quite homogeneous to me. Nicola’s help for the audio recording techniques and the music choices was absolutely crucial.

A short guideline to Gestire lo Spazio tracks

The Opener

It’s a short introduction based on a mainly monodic line, with echo and volume pedal. The final section utilizes three-voice chords which resolve on fifth harmonies, creating a very peculiar “organ-like” effect (Fig. 1).

Fig.1

Dettagli

This piece has already appeared in Minimized, a disc I recorded long ago with my old trio. I have rearranged it by opening the static sound of the E Dorian mode through a light loop, used more as a colour effect than as actual rhythm. The theme has characteristic arpeggios of fourths and fifths that I alternate by harmonising a hexatonal scale (Fig. 2) and the diminished scale by tenths (Fig. 3).

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Gocce

This piece, with its ring structure based on minor thirds modulations, has an echo repetition pattern (Fig. 4). An interesting detail of this track is the increasing tension from ring to ring, which is achieved through harmony, rhythm and dynamics.

Fig.4

Episodio II

This piece was born on the double bass, so I preferred not to alter the sound apart from adding a slight reverberation. This is my favourite track because the increased dynamics is reached through a sequence of harmonies evolving from closer to more open sounds, while keeping all the other parameters unchanged.

Fig. 5

Pièce Informe

This is a sort of liaison track, with sounds taken and re-edited/assembled from concrete music recordings. This is my first homage to Maderna’s work. The sound is outdated, old-fashioned, similar to the soundtracks of TV serials made in the late 1960s. Perfect!

Hands

This is the only track where I have used the tapping technique. I’d rather not use tapping to make both accompaniment and melody, as if I were imitating a so-called “bar pianist”. Instead I wanted to explore the use of arpeggios in the whole range of the 6-string bass, adding melody and accompaniment fragments only at intervals. Nicola’s help in this piece was essential to create a full and compact sound.

Afternoon in Solo

This piece was first recorded with the accordionist Marco lo Russo in Tarabuk. Here it has the same features as Episodio II, where the space of sound is always “filled with emptiness”. I particularly like this theme, which I have composed on the electric bass using the Lydian mode (Fig. 6) and searching a contrast between major sound (brilliant and clear) and the appearance of low notes hiding this openness. Even when the piece shifts from the theme to other chords, its harmony can still be perceived, as if the accompaniment were still there (implicit sound).

Fig. 6

Dirty

Another liaison track and a further act of reverence to Maderna, which I have made by superimposing bass noises to sounds manipulated/altered by modern software.

Harry

Its theme is based on fourths and fragments of the diminished scale (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7

The solo is free on a modal scheme. Rhythm is certainly the most relevant feature of this piece.

Fig. 8

Gestire lo Spazio I

This track belongs to the suite after which this album is named. It’s a totally improvised piece, with no predefined structure. Simply a C minor idea, my favourite tonality together with G minor. This suite makes the intention I have anticipated in the CD title more explicit: to furnish an empty room by adding one object at a time and progressively check the effect they create. To stop and decide whether or not to add any new elements.

Forma Mentis

One day I was playing the bass and I just came across this arpeggio… later on, I transported and further developed it. This piece makes me think about my past, my childhood. Nicola and I have purposefully created an “acid” sound, especially when the bass moves to the upper register. No doubt the most exhausting track in the whole recording. Forma Mentis is dedicated to my son.

Gestire lo Spazio II

This track represents a challenge to organise and control space using the echo effect. It is a canon based on the same delayed time as Gocce. In the intro I use my 6-string bass in the farthest register, with an extremely full texture. The theme “splits” the bass sound in two parts, in the first half of the bar as melody and in the second half as accompaniment (Fig. 9).

The theme construction was actually a very big effort, but the final result seems very good to me.

Fig. 9

Blue

It’s the oldest “theme” on the whole cd. It is based on sixth and tenth voicing to harmonise the melody by block chords using the E minor melodic scale (Fig. 10). It creates a clear, traditional “blue” mood.

Fig. 10

Gestire lo Spazio III

I have explicitly dedicated it to Bruno Maderna. The use of the slap technique shows how you can exploit the whole bass register, unlike using the bass just as a backing instrument. The main bass line here is in Figure 11.

The extract from Maderna’s speech during the conduction of a contemporary music orchestra leads you to the album ending. While the musicians are trying to show off their virtuoso talent through complicated improvisations, Maderna exhorts them to use the music material in a more simple and direct way (“se no non serve a niente” = otherwise it’s pointless).

Fig. 11

Gestire lo Spazio IV

It’s a piano improvisation with bass overdubbing to add some colour shades.

Where to find Gestire lo Spazio

For more info on the album and where to buy it, please check this link: www.ediechoes.com/gestire_spazio.html

You can download it from itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/gestire-lo-spazio/id302511356

In this work I have tried to organise and control space as best as I could.

Thanks to Anna, Nicola and Alessio for their help.

 

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