Well, without getting too philosophical about it there are two primary reasons/considerations for the title. Firstly, it has to do with the state of music consumption. Unfortunately we live in a world with many distractions and it is unrealistic (not necessarily unreasonable) for anyone to sit in the dark with great headphones or a great Hi-Fi system and listen to the CD from beginning to end (Your rewarded greatly however if you do this).
Each track on the album represents a particular time of night (12am, 1am, etc.), a carefully written composition that allows your mind to wander and commands its attention all at once. ‘Driving at Night’ blends the world of electronic synths and that of acoustic instruments (cello, oboe, and violin) so perfectly that one wonders why they aren’t paired more often. My music is often described as beautifully melancholic and is rewarding, experienced as desired:
We’re always texting, browsing the web, etc. myself included. So in my search for the next ‘concert hall’ I thought about long drives at night through empty cities or on long country roads (if you have ever driven through Indiana, you know what I mean). This does not mean that you should only listen to this music in the car, but it was more a search for a quiet somewhat disconnected environment.
Finally, on a more personal note, driving at night for me symbolizes a journey into a future unknown, or a return home after a long day. The music on this Album is my soundtrack to all the quiet thoughts that accompany the solitary driver, with all of his or her hopes and fears.
11:55pm is a late addition to the CD. Originally written for oboe, cello sextet, and piano the piece has been re conceived for oboe and electronics. The unifying element is a repeated note that remains present until the very last note. I imagined this piece as a slow movement in a baroque concerto. In fact, one of Thomas’ specialties is the performance and interpretations of baroque oboe concertos and he truly captures this barotronique music perfectly (notice also the absence of overly romantic vibrato in his playing).
12am is one of my favorites in this series. Although I am not trying to influence what and how you hear this piece, be sure to check out the music video for some great visuals to go along with the music. After having written several of the pieces for solo instruments, I wanted to combine the oboe and cello for at least one of them (and later even more). As you can hear in most of the pieces, the electronics have a more “random” quality about their attacks (very church bell like) while the instrumentalist perform long mostly stepwise lines of music. This combination has served me well and is beautifully performed by both Gina and Thomas. If you are familiar with the guidelines for good chorale style melodies (you know who you are…you music geek) you’ll notice how adhering to these principles shapes my ‘Driving at Night’ series.
1am was originally a piece called ‘Fantasia per Oboe e Electro Continuo’ and premiered at the XMUSE new music festival at the University of South Carolina. In fact this is not only the first piece to be written, but also the catalyst for the entire series and CD project. You’ll notice that this recording is for cello and electronics as it was arranged for cello on a second live performance. Much to the dismay of my resident oboist and brother Thomas, the wider range and warm sound of the low cello won out in the end, however you can order sheet music for both instruments here once the shop is up and running (all other movements are available as well for purchase). The piece begins ominous and dark before ‘hope’ is revealed and the past is remembered (deep right).
2am is inspired by a melody from J.S. Bach’s chorale “Wachet Auf” also known as “Sleepers Awake.” Here’s a YouTube link so you can make the connection for yourself (go ahead, don’t take my word for it, I’ll wait). Back? What makes both this composition and 2am’s melodies more interesting is the many non-chord tones (for 2am they are mostly appogiaturas) added to embellish the melody. In 2am the melody repeatedly reaches past the note that fits the underlying harmony before resolving to it eventually, creating a yearning sound. Technically, 2am could be performed live without electronics as a piece for cello, piano, and organ.
I generally only write music for the musicians in my life (even better, they also happen to be family), and seeing as I have a very talented sister who is a violinist, I decided to include the violin to the collection of solo instruments. The music video for 3am is a very good illustration of how the piece is constructed, a bubbling ever-changing accompaniment (time-laps) with a slow moving (panning) melody (camera). 3am takes full advantage of the entire range of the violin from its lowest note to its very high range (dogs hate this piece).
4am is probably the least ‘sophisticated’ of the series and also the final one written. When I listen to it I am reminded of John Rutter’s beautiful choral arrangements (a composer you should check out…only after you’re done here of course). I’ve always admired his simple sounding and yet complex written arrangements seemingly resting and ‘milking’ just the right chords, so I tried to do the same. Additionally, the only thing better than one cello is two, so I used three here. For all you music lovers out there, you may even hear an unintentional quote of music by Rachmaninoff.
5am is another early piece in the collection. It was actually the first one written after coming up with the concept for the album. This is perhaps why 5am most closely mirrors the idea of actually driving at night (well, more like driving in the early morning). The electronics are more atmospheric than in other pieces of the series and overall the track has a more meditative quality to it. Be sure to check out the music video I created here.
The time stamp of 6am should not be taken too literal. ‘Dripping’ with melancholy, it’s no way to end an album, hence the addition of 6:01am, but more on that later. The piece is built around a repeated loop of electronic music and the inherent chord progression. It finishes open ended with no real resolution to the final chord progression (and perhaps no answer to your deep existential questions this music made you think of).
Wanting to end the album on a more positive note, I thought it would be nice to add one last short and uplifting piece, 6:01am. My goal for the track was, quite simply, to write something beautiful, short, and sweet. So, sit back and enjoy the music of 6:01am.