Unknown Masters - Ariodney Hussington
Chamber Symphony No. 6 – “Simpleton Pleasures” (mp3)
Chamber Symphony No. 13 – “Jazz Improvisations” (mp3)
Prof. McJeebie: Miss Hussington, tell us about the musical structures behind your Chamber Symphony No. 6.
Ariodney Hussington: First, I’d like to thank you for having me.
McJeebie: You’re welcome.
Hussington: Well, with Simpleton Pleasures I’m successfully combining the vernacular appeal of melodic simplicity and harmonic redundancy with the complicated tonal modulations of twentieth-century music and the rhythmic abstruseness of the French Overture, an often overlooked isorhythmic technique composers use to make rhythms bouncier and more angular than they are to begin with.
McJeebie: These tonal modulations you refer to, they happen every eight bars or so. It’s a remarkable shift in the music, making the simple tune sound very modern and shocking.
Hussington: Exactly! This is to convey the tragic and dirty lives of many simpleton people.
McJeebie: What composers, besides yourself, do you pay homage to in this symphony?
Hussington: The second tonal modulation happens one measure later than the first modulation, creating a kind of phase shift in the style of composer Steve Reich. Also in the second modulation, the bassoons get into that Rite of Spring range which is an homage to Stravinksy. And the fourth and final modulation returns us to the original tonal center, creating a form of A-B-C-A first utilized by the composer Ferde Grofé.
McJeebie: The clarinet trills remind me of Richard Stoltzman.
McJeebie: Let’s move on to Chamber Symphony No. 13. Were you influenced by the African-American rhythms of jazz?
Hussington: Yes, of course, I love African-American jazz, and the compositions of Stan Kenton and Dave Brubeck in particular.
McJeebie: It seems that you’ve introduced an odd instrument into the chamber ensemble – a trapped set of drums. What made you decide to use such a non-classical instrument?
Hussington: Originally, I wanted to use a saxophone, but I thought a drum set would be more authentic to jazz. But, unlike most jazz composers, I don’t allow the players to improvise. I’ve notated all of their parts, which allows me to fine-tune the overall sound I’m looking for. For example, I’ve found that using accent marks on the offbeats really enhances the swing feel and makes for a decidedly un-classical atmosphere. What I’m going for with the drum set – and with the flutter-tongued trumpet as well – is a sound-world in which all listeners can relate to what I have to say.
McJeebie: Why is the piece called Jazz Improvisations if there's no improvisation?
Hussington: There is improvisation, but it happens in the composer's head, and, actually, it already happened. It was in the past. So what you're hearing is a sort-of simultaneous compilation of all kinds of different improvisations that the composer was able to transcribe quickly.
McJeebie: There is also a French Horn part, hardly a common instrument at, say, the Blue Note Café or Spanish Harlem.
Hussington: I included a French horn part, but I’m not using the French Overture technique. As a matter of fact, in concert performances of Jazz Improvisations, the horn player is asked to tap his feet in a shuffle rhythm. When the audience sees the French horn player dancing, they usually get the hint that they’re not listening to classical music.
McJeebie: These two excerpts have fascinated me for minutes on end. Thank you so much for sharing your musical talents with us. I'm sure I speak for myself when I say that my readers and I wish you the best of luck with your compositions.
Hussington: Thank you, Professor. I’ve been a long-time admirer of yours and am honored to be the first composer featured in this series.
McJeebie: Which of my compositions do you find the most interesting?
Hussington: I think my favorite is Etude for Computer No. 17 Version D. There are so many wonderful etudes, though, it’s hard to choose a favorite.
McJeebie: Well then, why don’t you tell me what several of your favorite compositions are?
Hussington: I really like them all.
McJeebie: I understand. Thank you, Miss Hussington.
Hussington: You’re welcome, Professor.