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Evan Weiss: Soundscapes

By Published: May 30, 2011
Also, a lot of the music on the album is cinematic. The imagery in that story is so rich and inspiring, I thought it would translate well into the music. There's some obvious aspects and some less obvious. I used some big orchestral chimes to represent the classic sound of the godfather clock, and then there's some woodblocks, which represent the ticking of the clock. That's all sort of woven into the music.

AAJ: Over the course of the CD, you have three "Triptych" pieces that appear, almost as intermissions. What are their roles in the album as a whole?

EW: For the overall orchestration, they kind of split up the density that's going on. I mean, the whole album is so dense. For me, the "Triptych" pieces offered a nice little breathing point between some other really dense and intense music.

From the theory side of things, the three pieces are all harmonically the same, but with different rhythmic interpolations based upon different numerical ratios—if you want to get into the notary behind the [tunes]. [Laughs.]

AAJ: The solos on the album often blur with the rest of the composition, mainly because the underlying music is so structured. In that way, the solos almost don't sound improvised at all.

EW: For me, the most powerful compositions—at least the most powerful compositions in improvised music—don't just involve one soloist: they involve the whole composition. In that regard, it then becomes the composer's job not just to write a good melody or a good groove, but to create a good environment for those soloists to improvise within.

There's a lot of jazz being written where it's not so much about writing a song for someone to solo over, but instead it's about creating the canvas for the musicians to do their thing over. Then the skill of composition is no longer based upon the orchestration or anything like that; it's based upon an intimate knowledge of the way the members of the ensemble improvise. The more you've played with people, the better you know your musicians and the better your compositions will turn out.

AAJ: What inspired you to use the cinematic sound effects on the album?

EW: Just like everyone else, I love watching movies. I listen to a fair amount of film music, and sound effects are a good and very literal way to represent things on a record. There's a lot of this esoteric and theoretical mumbo- jumbo, but if you hear an actual grandfather clock, you know it's a grandfather clock. You hear a door open, you know it's a door opening. Your hear footsteps, you know it's footsteps. It makes the imagery pop; it makes it come alive in a way that music can do, but maybe couldn't do quite as effectively without it.

AAJ: How do you pull off the sound effects live?

EW: I've performed these compositions more with my quintet than I have with the full ensemble, but if you have a good sound guy who knows the music, you can cue them in to play the sounds through the PA. I also have this little Roland loop station thing that you can save sounds into, which is easy enough [to use] if you have all your sounds cued up and know how to select them. Then you wait until the spot in the song and tap it with your foot.

AAJ: If you don't use a click track, how do you handle the effects that are more heavily syncopated with the music?

EW: We don't use the stuff that's synchronized precisely with the beat of the ensemble live. I wouldn't want the band playing with a click track; I don't think it would sound as organic. That's really the only way to do that well.

AAJ: How long have you been using these effects, and how were you introduced to them?

EW: I really only started experimenting with sound effects toward the beginning of this project. I went online and did some research on recording sound effects and just looked into some sound libraries that would have some effects. The footsteps [from "Incidents of Half an Hour"], for instance, we actually didn't record: that's a purchased, found sound effect from somebody else's library. We didn't make the footsteps, but the clock sound and backward vocals we made. A lot of it was discovering what was going to work well that we would be able to do, and what would be better to get from outside sources.

More recently, I've gotten into some sound design where I'm actually doing a bit of recording and editing specific sound effects for film, video trailers, or whatever it might be. But that's only happened since the project.

AAJ: Your music has a score-like quality. Have you ever considered audio-visual work, or perhaps even film scoring?

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