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Latest From the Blog

Pavane

(Composed and performed by Reynold D. Philipsek- Zino-Rephi Music copyright/ All Rights Reserved)

The definition of a “Pavane” is a 16th or 17th-century stately dance in duple meter.

I am going through a sort of neo-classical period. Since I did not grow up with classical music (my mom loved Hank Williams and the Everly Brothers), I have come to that music on my own terms and gradually.

I first discovered classical music in a very backward fashion, in so much that I listened to 20th-century composers first. Stravinsky, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Bartok were my entry points.

I have been moving back in time ever since, i.e. Brahms, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, etc.

I am only know getting “back to Bach.”

On this backward journey through history, it is only fitting that counterpoint has become more and more an essential ingredient for me. Contemporary pop music (even at its best) contains very little in that domain.

As a guitarist, counterpoint presents problems because of certain limitations of the instrument. This is especially true for the plectrum (pick) player like me.

I have tried to stay true to the Pavane form, using Faure as a good example.
My album “Picture This” afforded me a good opportunity to attempt a little foray into the counterpoint realm because the whole project was built on my overdubbing several guitar parts.

This is a very simplistic and brief example but simple and brief have become my guiding principles.

Link: https://youtu.be/WCUxCoCxD8c

Random or Design

(Reynold Philipsek 7/2/2019)

I suppose you could say I have written these thoughts down at this time from a position of autumnal repose.

Since my first communion in second grade (age 8), I have been grappling with the eternal question as to whether this universe is governed by random or design. I am not saying I was some sort of precocious kid. It is merely a fact that this was the start of my lifelong contemplation and angst concerning the possibilities of whether the universe was random or design.

Mere contemplation on this rather vast subject didn’t give me many answers. It was through the experience of songwriting that I began to gain some confidence and insight.

I have written 237 songs that have been recorded, according to the BMG catalog. Many, if not most of these pieces of music have been the product of trial and error, much thought and hard work. However, some of these songs just occurred to me in very spontaneous way. I am not implying that these pieces are works of greatness but they are, I am certain, among the best things I have been a part of.

These songs came to me out of the blue. It was as if I was taking dictation. To my knowledge, I was not in any way, planning to write music like this when they just “happened.”

Often the style and form invariably seemed, at the time, to be very far removed from what I was contemplating.

One piece, in particular, comes to mind. This piece is called “Prelude.” It is a very short piece of music and in a way very simple and direct. “Prelude” has a very strong strain of “Slavic melancholy,” and the chord voicings are totally unlike anything I had ever done before. I simply sat down with my guitar, tuned the sixth string down to open D (something I rarely do), and the whole piece came out.

It’s fairly difficult to get an inflated ego or sense of accomplishment about an act you feel more of an observer of, or passive participant in, than the actual source of. When things like this happen, it is hard not to think something bigger than yourself is at play, no matter how cynical you are by nature.

These experiences helped me go beyond my protracted period of agnosticism and come to my own personal variation on “Pascal’s Wager.” In other words, I now incline toward a belief in some sort of spiritual existence beyond the shedding of the mortal coil.

As I said, not all of the songs I have come up with had this sort of genesis. But the songs that did have this sort of spontaneous birth have a special glow to them for me.

Those songs are:

Chartreuse, Through Rose Colored Glasses, Sasha and Dinu, Prelude, Holy Fright, Silesian Mist, Tempus Fugit, Butterfly, Sans Souci , Tango Blue, Mary and Time.

Hong Kong Harry

“Hong Kong Harry”
(Composed by Reynold D. Philipsek, 1994 copyright)

I originally wrote this piece for “Global Home Movie,” which was inspired by my 1994 trip around the world. On that trip, I visited Japan and China first, then Hong Kong.

I wrote tunes for nearly every leg of the trip (China, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Athens, Rome, Switzerland, Paris, Amsterdam, Bonn, and London.)

For some reason, Hong Kong put me in mind of a film noir scene or Raymond Chandler story replete with hard-boiled detective voice-over narrative.

I started to parody the type of repartee these film noir sleuths spoke and tried to back it with appropriately orchestrated and typical American film music of the period and genre.

It was great fun.

I lean hard in the humorist style of my favorite writer S. J. Perelman in the spoken lyrics. 

Link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5-YynqFtrUw

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

About 1977 I attended some composition and theory classes through St. John’s University. The emphasis was on early 20th century composers.

Stravinsky, Webern, Schoenberg, Berg, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Debussy were the main focus. But Maurice Ravel became my favorite and remains so until this day. 

At the time, a friend of mine who was majoring in piano performance (and with whom I played in a small jazz combo), was studying “La Valse,” by Ravel, as his performance piece. This is was my entry point into the beautiful sound garden of Maurice Ravel.

I can’t think of a single piece composed by this marvelous composer and interesting man that I don’t cherish.

In fact, Ravel’s music is very much like nourishing comfort food to me. I don’t always immerse myself in it, but I return to it, especially in times when I need reminding how beautiful and meaningful music is. This music is so special to me that I ration it.  

Ravel combines bittersweet elements that are at once childlike and incredibly mature and poignant at the same time.

I became such a Ravel enthusiast that I collected every book in English written about him or his music. I consequently have 23 different books about Ravel in my personal library.

When I read that on his only tour of America in 1928, he played in Minneapolis, I went to the Minnesota History Museum library and photocopied all the local newspaper accounts of his visit to Minnesota from microfiche.

On trips to Paris, I would make pilgrimages to his unique little house (now a museum) outside of Paris in Montfort l’Amaury. The house is a menagerie of small objet d’art, rare books, and curios which reflect his personality and music.

On these visits, I got to know the curator and she became very interested in the newspaper accounts I had collected from the 1928 Minneapolis visit Ravel made on his tour. I sent them to her and they are now in their archives.

I have developed email relationships with two of his biographers.
In other words, in my own small way, I have become a sort of amateur Ravel expert.

Recently, I have been listening to the great BBC radio series on Ravel. In that series, which can be easily accessed online, almost every aspect of his curious life (he was fastidious as a composer and in his dress and grooming) and his charming music is discussed. In short, Ravel is a hero for me and I don’t have many heroes. For me Ravel is a true genius and I use that term very infrequently.

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