Friday, December 18, 2015

Album Notes

Morgan Powell's On and Off the Score is now for sale on CD Baby. It's worth looking at that site because it gives a lot of space for new information. There's a new bio, and there's also an excellent essay by the artist, who is well aware of the challenges his music poses for many listeners. I've copied his essay here, since it's an eloquent discussion of why it's worth it to find the patience for new experiences in art.
Powell on Powell

CDs are classified by musical genre to simplify shopping. My work has never fit into a genre, though, because I’ve never composed with attention to traditional formula or system. This is handmade music, written out of my head with pencil, paper, and occasional recourse to a piano.
I have never used preexisting structures; I don’t use computers; I’m not affiliated with any school of composition. I borrow no licks or lines. If you sample each of the works on “On and Off the Score,” the diversity of work will be clear, for no piece sounds like any other. You won’t find a “style.”
The roster of musicians on this CD in itself hints at the indefinable quality of my music. These are all world-class performers, yet they are at the top of disparate genres: avant-garde, jazz, experimental and improvisational music; orchestral, chamber, and solo performance.
I composed the works on this CD for these, my wide-ranging world of friends, collaborators, and colleagues. They came from all over the literal map to record this music: Jim Staley, New York City; John Fonville, San Diego; Ray Sasaki, Austin; Steve Butters and Tomeka Reid, Chicago; Eric Mandat and Ron Coulter, Carbondale, Illinois; Edwin London and Howie Smith, Cleveland; Ariane Alexander, Philadelphia. Several of us are rooted in Champaign/Urbana, with ties to the University of Illinois: Dorothy Martirano, Michael Cameron, Armand Beaudoin and I. The Cleveland Chamber Symphony has its home city; the Tone Road Ramblers do just that. In all, over fifty musicians participated in recording the music on this CD. 
The oldest recording, “Zelanski Medley,” for the ineluctable Modality and Contemporary Chamber Players was in 1972 and the most recent, “Miscreant Angels” for Ariane Alexander, in 2015. 
I am grateful to all of these performers and to Ann Starr, the publisher of Upper Hand Press, who had the faith and courage to publish this CD of what many will consider unorthodox, strange, and difficult music.  
And all of those adjectives can be legitimately applied—if you forget that we are deeply programmed to hear only consonant music. The question is: whether it is worth it to you to experience dissonance and new sound; to discover the satisfactions that lie beyond your expectations? That depends on where you want to go with your sensibility.
This is not music you will relax to on the first or second hearing. Rather, it is music to listen to one piece at a time. With repeated listening, your mind adjusts to its sound and workings, and it discovers a new world on the other side of your patience. Science has established that Western minds are programmed to hear consonant music; but, with exposure, the mind will not only adjust to dissonance but will come to like it and be excited by where it takes you.
Again, is the experience worth it? I decided a long time ago that it is.