Recorded April 2013 at a live concert given by Philip Thomas at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur in Montreal (on the beautiful Fazioli piano). Much thanks to Clemens Merkel as the whistling page turner.

Philip the Wanderer

I. Gently rumbling without direction

II. Broadly, surveilling the great expanse

III. Joyfully, jauntily, as if running away from regret itself

Commissioned by Philip Thomas with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts

Although a transcription, Philip the Wanderer may more accurately be thought of as a translation, or adaptation. Using the rhythmic pushing-and-pulling found in the recording of Mandowa II, played by Mozambican musician Zhukake Masingi, this piece was my first exploration of transcribing with fetishistic loyalty the movements of another human being. Using computer-led transcription processes and guided by a practical grounding in the traditional music of South Eastern Africa, the result is a piece which obsesses over the rhythm of the source material, with its danceable irregularity.

“an absolutely fascinating piano piece” – Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise, 2013

“…one of many examples of a risk, or a departure from expectation that is possible when a composer works closely, and genuinely as a peer, with performers.” – Jennie Gottschalk, Sound Expanse, 2013

“To the listener, Philip the Wanderer sounds like the freest music imaginable, yet somehow yoked to a huge motive power that propels it forward and upward with a questing, metaphysical spirit.

What also gives Philip the Wanderer its power and freedom is Miller’s harmony, another element of her music that finds its range in “O Zomer!” From her earliest works to the most recent, Miller’s preference for uninflected modal harmony is clear, as is a delight in the use of common major and minor triads, pan-consonant sonorities and harmony built from the harmonic series, to the extent that it is increasingly rare to encounter even so much as a single accidental in one of her pieces. This of course places her within a North American aesthetic sensibility that is at work in the rough diatonicism of William Billings, the modalism of early Cage, the soft consonance of American minimalism and the just intonation of James Tenney. This aesthetic sensibility is also found in the willingness to work with the ‘unsophisticated’ materials of folk and popular music – indeed, to dismantle or simply ignore the boundaries between them and ‘art’ music. In her recent works Miller’s use of triads, pan-consonance and the harmonic series has taken on an increased confidence, even grandeur, which lifts these musical devices beyond the anecdotal towards the archetypal.” – James Weeks, TEMPO, Along the Grain: the Music of Cassandra Miller, 2014

philip wanderer crop2