Knucklehead This piece is not on the CD, but has become a staple of my solo shows. I use a looping pedal and two different delays live along with a ring modulator to emulate the sounds in the middle section. In all, a little bit of fun with a lot of pedals–and no strings attached!
Finale Files (*.MUS)
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music from Rich SteinCounterclockwise is the product of more than three years of intense work. Interrupted by a myriad of issues, illnesses, scheduling hassles and other bizarre twists and turns, "CCW" arrives battle scarred yet fully realized and complete. Its ten pieces are tightly composed and arranged, and the production work of Phil Jimenez is simply outstanding. This recording is about the guitar as part of a larger ensemble–sometimes with strings, sometimes with percussion, often with both. The added players on the recording are all masters of their trade. The end result speaks for itself.
As a title, Counterclockwise means a great deal to me. From the rotation of the most powerful storms in the Northern Hemisphere to the directional indications found in daily life, the phrase "turning to the left" is overrun with interpretations and innuendos from harmless to sinister (itself an antiquated term for left-handedness). With hurricanes and tornados, separate but related forces combine to produce phenomenal power and energy, leaving everyone and everything in its wake permanently affected. The destruction is potentially devastating as the force rips across the landscape sparing nothing in its way until its fuel is spent.
Metaphorically the left turn has a great deal of potential energy.
In addition to harnessing such energy, this music has become my refuge. It’s a composition CD, not purely a guitar CD with accompaniment. Through these works I’ve been able to reconnect with some musical threads from my earlier influences, yet present them in a new and exciting way. In a sense I feel as if I’ve moved forward and backward at the same time, or maybe moved forward by moving backwards. At any rate, the musical energy released is more powerful and the ideas more complete than anything I’ve ever laid down in a studio. Thanks to Phil, Vanesa, Simon, Andrew, Rebecca, Melinda, Ed, Alexandra, Dave, Paul and Matt for helping to make it a reality.
Song Notescomments and credits for each track
The intro and A section came about during my initial forays into EADF#BE tuning, which I picked up from reading John Dowland pieces. Though I had the basic ideas for the piece in my fingers, it resisted taking shape until I made the decision to incorporate string quartet. As with many pieces in this collection, the orchestration fueled the compositional process. The entire middle section of the piece is conceived for strings, not arranged for them. It’s the only ensemble song on the CD that uses percussion but no bass–this frees up the cello and the djembe to do the honors.
The organic and "ethnic" sound of the piece gave rise to the astrological title. Being a Taurus and showing many attributes listed in your standard zodiac handbook for my sign, I went with the title early on. After I finished scoring it out on Finale I used my time elapsed tool and was shocked to find the total was 4:21–my birthday! It may read as slightly longer on your player, but according to Finale there was some heavy voodoo going on that day…
Earthsigns is composed for steel-string guitar and string quartet. The percussion parts were added later in the studio. I’ve performed it many times live with anywhere from a quartet to full chamber orchestra, with or without percussion. I’s a lot of fun to play, and the string players tell me it falls pretty easily into their hands.
Having the G string tuned down 1/2 step to F# allows for the prominent open 2nd in the main riff. It’s pretty easy to get used to the slight change in tuning, and it makes for some pretty chords without much extra work if you’re inclined to experiment. Capo III helps eliminate any booming open string issues and puts the string players in the perfect key for their fireworks.Download MUS file for Finale 2007: Earthsigns.mus
The first of three "Belas" on the CD–all based on a melody fashioned after some of Bartok’s more accessible pieces in the Mikrokosmos. I originally came up with the melody ages ago while working with a HS student on some archaic music software program in the lab. Like so many of my pieces Bela went through many permutations before being brought to life in it’s present form. Each member of the string quartet gets their hand in playing the 3+2+2 melody while the accompaniment shifts gears on each pass. My favorite permutation is #3.
3 Views of the Mississippi
I started writing 3 Views back in the early 1980’s during my "James’ Blood Ulmer" period. The tuning for the piece is AAC#ABE, with the bass A an octave below the 5th string’s tuning. I started performing the piece as a solo guitar work at clubs like The Speakeasy and the Sun Mountain Café (both long gone!) and while it remained a "go to" piece in my setlist for years I never loved it in the studio as a solo work. The first View appears on my first CD as a reflective and quiet pause from some of the more assertive pieces on the disc.
Once I started seriously contemplating doing a "strings and things" recording this set of pieces once again seemed viable. It’s the only piece on the CD arranged rather than composed for the ensemble; I tried to make the parts as organic as possible, and at times radically changed or recomposed the guitar part to suit the additional instruments. The addition of acoustic bass guitar helps to give the piece a more defined low end, while the homey percussion in the 3rd View definitely takes it somewhere new.
The second Bela is an uptempo take on the first one, with the melody of the first part in inversion to the original and modulated up a tri-tone. The second section riff is from an old tune I was writing for my last electric band "The Solution." The string players really get the aggressive flavor I was gunning for: being a Bartok nut I’ve bought a number of recordings of his six string quartets over the years. Many of them are too polite and schooled sounding, but this one collection sounds as if the players were snatched from a hilltop village in rural Hungary–the music sounds visceral, unrelenting and (in my opinion) totally rocks. That’s the sound I had in mind, and Dave, Melinda and Alex nailed it.
My mandolin chops finally came around after years of frustration. I picked one up in high school so I could learn the cool Led Zeppelin stuff, figuring I’d pick it up quickly enough being a violinist. I learned the Zep stuff but little else as I could never get comfortable with a flatpick. Fast forward nearly 30 years: with some expert coaching from Phil Jimenez I was able to find the mandolinist within, and improvise with some clarity after woodshedding the scale for the middle section–C, Db, E, F, G, Ab, Bb–until my fingers had little double lines on them. The e-bow is my favorite tool on acoustic or electric. It’s slightly unpredictable yet easy to control. With the treble rolled completely off the rhythm pickup on any electric it becomes a laser beam. My biggest challenge is to keep from sounding too much like Robert Fripp, who is undeniably one of my biggest influences.
On the River
I met Phil and Vanesa at a gig at 5 Towns College a number of years ago. I was totally taken with their musicianship and style. When I heard a few days later they were looking for a guitarist/instrumentalist I jumped at the opportunity to join them. With that the last incarnation of Phil’s group Jordan River was born. We played together with Jim Mansfield, bassist Mike McCabe and guitarist Jim Dexter for a year or so, creating the best acoustic based pop/rock I’ve ever heard. Phil’s eventual departure to produce and play with Wheatus put an end to this dynamic group. On the River was my lone composition for the group, and to this day I keep it in my setlist to commemorate the greatest band experience of my life.
Aurora started out as an idea for a script by my good friend and former student Jonathan Ehlers. His story tied together unforgiving winter elements with a humane touch and supernatural overtones. I asked Jon if I could compose some ideas to go along with storyline as it so inspired me I found it hard to resist. We’ve since used some of these thematic elements for another of Jon’s films–First Bite. This piece is my wife’s favorite; for me it incorporates many of the musical styles that make up my adult vocabulary, and I’m thrilled with results.
The string quartet sections of this piece were the impetus for the entire COUNTERCLOCKWISE project. While the cello plays a line more suited to the guitar, the other strings enter in staggered intervals reminiscent of my favorite vocal pieces of the High Renaissance. The middle section in 5 contains the seeds for the Bela pieces with the aggressive string style, and the e-bow is a perfect compliment to those instruments. Vanesa’s vocalizing and Phil’s multi-instrumental prowess bring back the essence of the Jordan River experience. Simon’s impeccable cajon performances, here and on other tracks, are a revelation. Bassist Paul Madden, an old friend from my Queens College days, provides the same solid foundation he did years ago with me in "The Solution."
Hands On was the title of my first CD–a 6-piece solo guitar EP in 1998, as well as an unfinished piece. It remained in its embryonic stage for a number of years until I started developing it after my second CD Unspoken came out in 2003. I’ve recorded many versions of it since ’03, but the addition of the string quartet put the piece over the top. Phil suggested I write an intro for the tune–which became the aggressive string section that opens the track. Andrew did a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the "ethnicity" of the opening, veering away from classical tonality in favor of something far more real and personal. His playing makes this recording for me.
The third incarnation of Bela is a return to E minor. Basically conceived as a string quartet piece, I started fooling around with the melody on guitar, and found it fit right into my hands as if it had been written for six string. The orchestration basically wrote itself; I had a ball getting the violin/mandolin parts together, and playing the basic groove in the studio with Simon and Matt–two former students of mine–was a gem. Probably one of my favorite pieces on the recording…
The best riff I’ve ever written for acoustic guitar. Ever. The A section has its roots in Kashmir and some of the more exotic Led Zep tunes from the ’70s, but the faster middle section is all about shifting rhythmic tensions. The string quartet nailed this section–they blew me away with their interpretation of the dots on the page, and Simon’s cajon is brilliant. I love this piece and look forward to playing it live.
Download MUS file for Finale 2007: Counterclockwise.mus
The Farewell Waltz
This is one of the rare times I’ve had a title for a piece before a note was written. Its meaning is very personal and I cried when I finished writing it. Cried even harder after hearing Alex and Dave’s brilliant string work. From its inception The Farewell Waltz was destined to close the recording, and its unresolved D vs. Eb serves as a reminder for me of the unfinished business that is at the heart of the matter for anyone who feels the need to create in order to feel alive.
My trusty Santa Cruz OM and Taylor 512 provide the acoustic power for the entire Counterclockwise project. For the e-bow work I used one of Phil’s handy Harmony electric guitars.
As for tunings and capo info:
All music composed and orchestrated by Rich Stein
Recorded and produced by Philip A. Jimenez
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