Outerborough, the CD

Outerborough, Amazon’s Number 1 in Classical Music, 2011

We’re rolling out a special edition of the double CD, one track at a time, with extended liner notes and back story, music videos and more.  And what’s more, it’s all free, a gift from the partnership of Todd Reynolds and Innova Recordings – free streaming and sharing, what amounts to essentially unlimited listening. Granted, it’s not the same as holding a super-quality CD in your hand and putting it directly into your ears, but it will get you started. If you already have Outerborough, it will be great fun to get behind the scenes, and if you don’t? You can have a copy to own, which sounds great, feels great and looks great in your hand and on your ears.  Amazon sells the product direct to you, with free shipping if you’re a Prime member, or if you’d like to buy it directly from me, you’re welcome to!

Every week we’ll issue a new track, which can be listened to in its entirety, in mp3 format, directly from Todd Reynolds’ Facebook Fan Page for its members.  Click the Like button, or share a track, and you’re in for the full ride, no matter when you subscribe.

Videos, photos, digital cover art, tales from the studio, Todd’s (that’s me) gonna blog it all, one tune at a time.  We’ll even get some perspective from some of the composers on the record as well, and make Outerborough as complete an experience as possible, as we embark on the next project.

Icy Sleeves of Green

Icy Sleeves of Green is an ode to my father. He’s 84 years old in 2011, and still plays the organ and piano in church each Sunday. He dragged me from one denomination to another, including eight years in a Methodist Church with eight full-time choirs, all of his own creation, and is a stunning representation of a great work ethic. (He was also teaching high-school at the time.)

It’s the sworn duty of every violinist with a Music Minister as a father to play carols in church every Christmas, even after age 40. In 2005, I asked if I could PLEEZE just ‘do what I do,’ with laptop, foot pedal, and two XLR cables in a church that had never seen that get-up. The problem was to find a Christmas Carol that was free of enough religious baggage that I could embrace it, and Greensleeves came to mind – a Christmas carol with a previous life.

That December, I plugged in for my father to play this piece. The response? “Too many drums, they’ll never go for it, it’s too loud, too raucous, you can’t play that in church!.” What a drag. Well, that’s what the mute button is for – conservative church dads with a drum conscience. I muted the drum tracks once – but they’ve never been silenced again.

Storm Drain – Ken Thomson

Ken Thomson has been a valued friend and colleague for many years and remains one of my very favorite musicians. One of the founders of Gutbucket and the leader and writer for Slow/Fast, many still remember Ken as the very first head of Bang on a Can’s Cantaloupe Records. In fact it was Ken who brought Ethel into the fold, giving us our initial record deal back in the early years of the new century.

Known equally these days for his composition as for the great saxophonist, clarinetist and bass clarinetist that he is, we decided together that a piece for the both of us could be a great option, if only that it meant we’d see each other and play together more often. Ken knows me as a looper, so he made a piece which could be done in real-time with simple loop recorders. You can even do it with an iPhone these days.

Like Transamerica, I recorded the initial loops in Ableton Live and put it up in the cloud. Ken then used his own Pro-Tools rig in his Brooklyn living room to put down his part, sending it back to me through the cloud. We did a final mix together, which you hear in this stream and on the record. I’ll ask Ken where that title came from, cuz I’m not sure I know!

Ken says this:

When Todd asked me to write “Storm Drain,” I’d initially considered writing a straight-up duo for violin and bass clarinet; I don’t use a lot of electronics in my compositions, and I thought – based on what I imagined Todd would be doing for his double CD – that something more acoustic would be a good contrast.  However, as I started work on the piece, I really liked the idea of him being able to create layers upon which we could soar together.  My goal in using the looping is that you’re not super-aware of each new entrance but that it feels that it develops organically.

Working with Todd over years now, I wrote “Storm Drain” knowing that he would have no problem with the looping aspect of it, but also that we could quickly get “past” the tech and move onto creating a great performance arc.  And, true to form, he “got” the piece right away and we quickly started talking about musical issues.

A side note for me is that I’ve been working on really using the full range of the bass clarinet in my compositions in a series of pieces.  In some ways, this piece can be paired with two other pieces of mine — one called “perpetual” for bass clarinet and string quartet (which Todd also premiered); and a bass clarinet quartet that premiered this summer at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival — in addition to my 2008 piece “Undo” for the bass clarinet duo Sqwonk and my bass clarinet writing for Slow/Fast.  As I continue to explore the bass clarinet, I’ve felt that much of the writing for the instrument short-changes its abilities.  Here, both Todd and I take two roles: that of support (myself in the low/bass notes of the horn, and Todd in the looping) as well as in lead/melody roles, which we can truly do in unison.
The title Storm Drain basically just made sense to me — a rare event when the title just makes sense to me without a struggle… and I think it’s somewhat “programmatic” in that it references the cascading violin pizzicatos.
A little secret is I’ve written a followup duo piece, called “Pay to Play” for violin and alto saxophone — which has a very different character to it — which we premiered in September at the Noguchi Museum in Queens.  Maybe we’ll release it as a download one of these days…

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