September 26, 2009 | Comments Off
Dr. Kent: Welcome back to Sound Authors. On this show, I talk to both Sound Authors and Authors of Sound. I’m especially excited about the show’s new relationship with Concerts in Your Home, which is a wonderful place online that helps to feature artists by creating house concerts around their music, all across the country. Some amazing artists do these house concerts. My guest on the show today is one of those amazing artists; his name is Wayne Gratz. Welcome to the show.
Wayne Gratz: Yes, hi, Kent, how are you?
Dr. Kent: Great. And am I pronouncing your last name correctly?
Wayne Gratz: You are.
Dr. Kent: Wonderful. We’re going to listen to a couple tracks from your album. Let’s talk first about one of the tracks, then we’ll listen to it. It’s called ‘Two Views.’
Wayne Gratz: Yes. That track is actually the title track from the album ‘Two Views,’ which is my latest album that just came out. Basically that album is kind of about my childhood, and how I was building all of these memories as a child, and how much different they look when you get older and look back on your childhood. A lot of those songs on that particular album are about some of my childhood memories. Like I said, ‘Two Views’ is the title track on the album.
Dr. Kent: When you’re composing these songs, how do you go about doing that?
Wayne Gratz: Most of the time, my songs start out with improvisations, with maybe a melody. I have a recording studio in my house, and I also have a piano in my house, so a lot of times I’ll get a melody and I’ll just turn the tape recorder on and I’ll do a lot of improvisation on a melody. That’s basically how I write my songs now a’days.
Dr. Kent: So let’s listen to ‘Two Views,’ from the album ‘Two Views.’ Then we’ll be back, and we’ll talk to Wayne in just a second again. Here we go.
Wayne Gratz: Awesome, thanks.
Dr. Kent: What a beautiful track from Wayne Gratz, from his newest album called ‘Two Views,’ and that’s the title track. What a beautiful song there.
Wayne Gratz: Oh well, thank you, appreciate it.
Dr. Kent: You’ve got your recording studio in your own house for a lot of stuff, how do you go about recording the final version?
Wayne Gratz: What I do is I actually use Pro Tools. I think most musicians are familiar with that. There was a time when you had to go into a big studio and spend a lot of money. The technology now a’days is so good that you can have a home-studio and get really high quality CDs. Basically, my piano’s in my living room and I put some really good mikes on it, and I send it into the computer, and when I get a track that I really like, I hang onto it, and I do very, very little editing. That’s the thing with doing everything digitally: you have the option of editing things out, but I usually like to get one good take and just keep it. I don’t really like to edit a whole lot. That takes you through the whole process.
Dr. Kent: How about the sound? Do you have to do much reverb added to it, or do you just get that from the mikes?
Wayne Gratz: I add a little bit of reverb to it, things that are called “plug ins” now, that are actual virtual, on the computer. I use just a touch of reverb; I try not to use too much, so the ambient is just right on.
Dr. Kent: What was the process like when you were doing some of the Narada stuff, ten years ago plus? Did you go into the studio with them? How was that process different for you?
Wayne Gratz: First of all, the whole album was written on a demo, and then, the process of about six weeks of going somewhere, either to
Dr. Kent: How’s your career changed from then ’till now? New age piano is something that kind of did pretty well in the 90s, or piano in general. Some people always love it. What do you do as a career musician to keep it going?
Wayne Gratz: I try to do as many concerts as I can in a year. I haven’t been doing that many. I try to write as often as possible, and spend time at the piano, and writing some new music. You’re right that the market has slowed down, no doubt. It seems I have more time on my hands to write, and that’s what I’m doing.
Dr. Kent: Tell me, just for a tiny little couple seconds, tell me about this Concerts in Your Home project. You are one of the members of that.
Wayne Gratz: Yes. Concerts in Your Home: I’ve done a couple of them, and both of them were just fantastic experiences. You get to meet a lot of people. You’re one-on-one with people, and it’s usually in a really nice, intimate atmosphere. It’s fantastic. I would like to do four of them a week [laughs].
Dr. Kent: Right. And that’s the thing about piano; I’ve been a couple times to Carnegie Hall and I’ve heard piano in there, and it’s not amplified. It sounds gorgeous in that hall. A piano in a parlor has a different sound, and there’s so many different possible sounds you can get out of this instrument. What kind of piano do you have at your house?
Wayne Gratz: I have a Yamaha C7.
Dr. Kent: Do you have people come and tweak it, and make it in tune all the time?
Wayne Gratz: Yes, I have a piano tuner technician who’s been my piano tuner technician for probably 15 years. I haven’t had the piano that long, but I’ve had other pianos before that one, and he’s always taken care of my pianos.
Dr. Kent: It’s a different sound you’re trying to get out of it than say Tom Waits, or something.
Wayne Gratz: Yes, I guess you could say that. A pop sounding piano’s probably a little bit brighter, a little crisper. Yes, it would probably be voiced a little bit different in Tom Waits’ studio than it would be in my studio.
Dr. Kent: Cool. You said that track ‘Two Views’ had to do with your childhood, and I know you were brought up in North Carolina.
Wayne Gratz: Actually, I was raised in Pennsylvania. I was born in North Carolina, and I was raised in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Kent: Were you raised in the city or the country?
Wayne Gratz: I was raised in suburbia.
Dr. Kent: Suburbia, nice. What kind of echoes of your childhood find themselves in your music. What kind of music were you listening to? Was it rock, pop, folk music, classical? What was it all?
Wayne Gratz: All of the above. When I was a teenager, I was listening to people like Guess and Pink Floyd. Probably my biggest influence was Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Keith Emerson. When I was younger than that I actually was playing guitar, I was listening to Grand Funk Railroad. A lot of classic rock I was listening to when I was a teenager. Before that, I took piano lessons for a while, so it was kind of simplified classical. I didn’t take piano for that long, but I did dabble in classical a little bit when I was younger.
Dr. Kent: What is the difference between classical piano, purely in technique? A lot of folks have had piano lessons as kids. What’s the difference between that and what’s classified as new age piano, and what you classify it as? What do you call your own piano playing?
Wayne Gratz: I describe it as pretty, sort of, folky, sometimes mellow, thought-provoking, and classical, more on the adagio side. A lot of classical music is really, really difficult to play, and my music’s pretty simple to play. I try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s just the way I write. That’s probably the way that would be.
Dr. Kent: It’s a lot of melody, right?
Wayne Gratz: Yes, it’s a lot about melody, and especially linear melodies. Nice chord voicings that are really pleasant to the ear, and sometimes they don’t go from chord to chord; sometimes you can let the chord ring, so people can think about the chord that they’re hearing. There’s some things that are different.
Dr. Kent: What kind of different experiences have you had in music? I know you’re part of a band as well, and you’ve dabbled in guitar. What else are you involved in?
Wayne Gratz: I play in a band that actually plays party music. We play everything from blues to jazz, to Led Zeppelin. Other things I do, I enjoy computers, I enjoy doing website design. Probably the computer I would have to say is my second; it’s actually what I went to school for.
Dr. Kent: Really? Where do you do website design?
Wayne Gratz: I maintain my website, and I’ve done a few others. It’s something that I’ve learned over the past year. I don’t do it a whole lot; I do it more for a hobby than I do for any kind of trying to make a living at it.
Dr. Kent: Cool, and we can check that out, of course. His website is www.waynegratz.com. And Concerts in Your Home: book a house concert; sounds like he likes them. Those are www.concertsinyourhome.com. You can book him and some other great folks on there. They’re kind of partners of ours now, and that’s fun. It’s been fun chatting with you about your music. Tell me what you’re working on next.
Wayne Gratz: I’m actually playing a concert next week, and right now I’m practicing for it.
Dr. Kent: Cool, and doing some of the solo stuff?
Wayne Gratz: Yes, we’re doing a concert in Walhalla, South Carolina in an auditorium up there; it’s with David Roth, and David Nevue. Currently, that’s what I’m working on.
Dr. Kent: Wonderful. Where can we find out more about your music? Obviously there’s your website.
Wayne Gratz: The website, and also, we sell CDs on the website. We sell some sheet music on the website, and if the music isn’t on the website, it’s downloadable at all the major Internet stores: iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, all the major stores. Even the Narada stuff is still on there. So, it’s really, really easy to get.
Dr. Kent: Very cool. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Give me just a nutshell about this other song we’re going to listen to going out here, called ‘Waters Flowing Softly.’
Wayne Gratz: Yes, ‘Waters Flowing Softly’ is a song that I did. I did a soundtrack for a Thomas Kinkade DVD, and this song was inspired by one of his paintings.
Dr. Kent: Wonderful. So we’re going to listen to that going out, and go check out Wayne Gratz at www.waynegratz.com, or Narada, or on iTunes, or Concerts in Your Home, a whole bunch of places. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.
Wayne Gratz: Kent, thank you very much.
Dr. Kent: All right, let’s listen to ‘Waters Flowing Softly,’ like he said, featured on a Thomas Kinkade DVD. You can go pick that up and listen to it firsthand. But here it is, and then we’ll talk to you again after the song’s over. ‘Waters Flowing Softly’ by Wayne Gratz.
Dr. Kent: That’s a beautiful track from Wayne Gratz. His latest album is ‘Two Views.’ Go check him out online at www.waynegratz.com, or on www.concertsinyourhome.com, where you can actually book him for a house concert if he’s in your area. What a beautiful song, and you can hear that on Thomas Kinkade’s DVD as well. I hope you all have a wonderful week, and pick up a great book, and a great CD, and we’ll talk to you the next time. We’re actually going to be here once a day now, at 3 p.m., so tune in every day. We’re going to be recasting hundreds of old great shows we’ve had with people like Billy Collins, and all sorts of folks like that, so tune in once a day at 3 p.m., and then live again a week from now on Friday, and we’ll be talking to a bunch of new folks then. So pick up a great book, and be safe. We’ll talk to you soon.
September 24, 2009 | Comments Off
From his website:
Born in Winston Salem, North Carolina, in June of 1954, Wayne acquired his love for music at an early age. At the age of five, Wayne moved to Reading, Pennsylvania. Inspired by his kindergarten teacher, Wayne began playing the piano at age six and studied piano into his high school years. He then began studying guitar. With the onset of cool keyboard bands such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, and Genesis, Wayne decided to return to the keyboards.
In addition to his love for music, Wayne also did pretty well at swimming, competing at statewide high school meets. “Since you can’t really make a living at swimming,” Gratz says , “I decided to keep music as my main focus. ” A resident of Reading, PA from the age of five through high school, Wayne played in various rock bands. After high school, he began touring the U.S and Canada, ending up in Orlando, Florida in 1976.
From 1989 to 2002, Wayne released 7 albums of original compositions on the Narada Label and 4 albums of cover music on the Enso label. Wayne also contributed to some of the most memorable compositions on Narada’s best selling collections, The Wilderness Collection, A Childhood Remembered, Piano Solos, and 2 Christmas Collection albums. All these albums are still ditributed by Capitol Records and EMI and are available at most digital download centers.
Wayne started his own label Wayne Gratz Music in 2002 and has recorded and produced 5 albums,
to include Sleepy Baby Suite, Christmas Remembered, Soul to Soul, Light Lands and Shoreline and the most recent project, Two Views. In addition, his music has been used for the Olympic games specialty segments, NBC television specials, and background music for numerous other television/radio advertisements, to include a Tiger Woods segment and background music for Thomas Kinkade’s new DVD. Wayne’s music is featured on Music Choice and can be heard on Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, WLOQ, and numerous radio stations around the world.
Along with his solo career, Wayne continues to work conventions and special events with the popular band Paradise in Orlando, Florida.
September 14, 2009 | Comments Off
From their website:
Elegant and epic, realist and romantic, foreign and familiar – Likeness to Lily is a Brooklyn-based New Music quartet with a flair for telling syncopated stories in the patois of post-modern pop. Vocalist Susan Oetgen’s classically poetic melodies come from the heart of everyday life and love, and find pulse and passion in the jazz-inspired rhythms, harmonies and compositional savoir-faire of pianist Tony Melone, drummer Evan Pazner and bassist Ian M. Riggs.
Since forming in 2003, Likeness to Lily has performed regularly in the downtown music clubs of New York City, recently venturing forth to appear in concert series and performing arts venues along the East Coast, notably on the Vermont Arts Exchange’s Basement Music Series in N. Bennington, VT, and the Hump Day Groovz Series at Washington, DC’s Busboys & Poets. In 2005, Likeness to Lily independently recorded and released their debut record, Solitude’s Dollhouse, which features the song ‘Jewelia’, as heard on A&E Television’s prime-time reality show, Random 1.
In March 2008, Likeness to Lily premiered an original multimedia song-cycle entitled Bazm-o-Razm on the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Music off the Walls series at the Brooklyn Museum, featuring chamber musicians from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, visual images by artist Justin Waldstein, Iraq War photos by Pulitzer Prize-nominee Alan Chin, and choreography by Sahar Javedani. Bazm-o-Razm was reprised at The Performance Project @ University Settlement in May 2008, and will be performed again on December 5, 2008 at Galapagos Art Space, for the occasion of Likeness to Lily’s Farewell, Recruit CD release. Farewell, Recruit contains the complete music of Bazm-o-Razm, as well 6 other original songs that integrate the dramatic depth of opera with tight, but conversational, song arrangements and ageless acoustic appeal.
September 7, 2009 | Comments Off
Imani Winds has established itself as more than a wind quintet. Since 1997, the Grammy nominated ensemble has taken a unique path, carving out a distinct presence in the classical music world with its dynamic playing, culturally poignant programming, genre-blurring collaborations, and inspirational outreach programs. With two member composers and a deep commitment to commissioning new work, the group is enriching the traditional wind quintet repertoire while meaningfully bridging European, American, African and Latin American traditions.
The wide range of programs offered by Imani Winds demonstrates their mission to expand the wind quintet repertoire and diversify sources of new music. From Mendelssohn, Jean Françaix, György Ligeti, and Luciano Berio, to Astor Piazzolla, Elliott Carter and John Harbison; to the unexpected ranks of Paquito D’Rivera and Wayne Shorter, Imani Winds actively seek to engage new music and new voices into the modern classical idiom. Imani members Valerie Coleman and Jeff Scott both regularly contribute compositions and arrangements to the ensemble’s expanding repertoire, bringing new sounds and textures to the traditional instrumentation.
Imani Winds enjoy frequent national exposure in all forms of media, including two features on NPR’s All Things Considered, appearances on APM’s Saint Paul Sunday, NPR’s Performance Today and News and Notes with Ed Gordon, the Bob Edwards Show on XM Satellite Radio, BBC The World, as well as frequent coverage in major music magazines and newspapers.
September 5, 2009 | Comments Off
Dr. Kent: Now, my next guest on the show is Darol Anger, he’s known as one of the best fiddlers in the country for a long time now He was a member of the Turtle Island String Quartet, an amazing group of musicians. They cross over from classical music to folk music to all sorts of things. We’re going to listen to one song from him called Love On Three Levels, and after that we’ll talk to him live.
Dr. Kent: What a beautiful song from Darol Anger. That song is called Love on Three Levels. And now I have Darol live on the show. Welcome to the show.
Darol Anger: All right, I’m glad to be here.
Dr. Kent: Tell us about that tune, Love on Three Levels.
Darol Anger: Yeah, well, it was dedicated to somebody who I was with at the time, and we had a place that actually had three levels, so I decided to write a tune that had three sections, and had a lot of three-type rhythms. I decided to throw every three I could in.
Dr. Kent: You have such an amazing background, you know, when you started talking about numbers there, so many of the tunes that you’ve done and that the Turtle Island String Quartet, of course, and all these projects you’ve done have crazy rhythms and this and that, but they all sound beautiful or crazy fast, and this and that. And it’s only when someone tries to go and play it that they realize how difficult some of that stuff is.
Darol Anger: You must be a musician then, huh?
Dr. Kent: Yes, indeed. Yes. I wouldn’t even try to… But how’d you get your start with doing some of the more I guess crazy stuff? There’s straight time fiddle playing, and you’re certainly great at that, but how did you get into some of the more difficult stuff?
Darol Anger: Well you know, I grew up at a time when the Beatles were very popular. In fact, I got into music because of the Beatles. So that kind of ruined me for any kind of traditional, period, supposedly pure kind of music style, I think. Just growing up in that kind of aesthetic. And I’ve just always been interested in stuff that was interesting to me, you know. I’m just interested in a lot of things. I love all kinds of music, and to me it doesn’t seem that weird. I just try to make it so that it’s beautiful, you know, that you can listen to it without having to worry about how it’s all constructed, but if you really want to get in there, if you want to get into it, you can.
Dr. Kent: And you’ve played with some people that would make most fiddle players just absolutely drool. From legendary Stephane Grappelli to Mark O’Connor and Bela Fleck and then of course Vassar Clements who passed away a couple years ago.
Darol Anger: Yeah. it’s been an incredible education.
Dr. Kent: The violin is such a tiny little instrument, but it can do so many different things.
Darol Anger: It’s one of the most flexible instruments that is made. You can see it’s spread to all parts of the world, you know, just about every culture. Even the East Indians use the violin in their music now, it’s amazing. Something that was invented basically 400 years ago in Italy has spread all over the world. That sort of tells the story right there about how flexible and how you can just pretty much do anything with it. I love it. And I have been really, incredibly luck to play with all these people. I guess David Grisman and Tony Rice really were the guys that really taught me the most at first about music and playing music and stuff like that. Playing in David’s band was incredible, and he was very generous with his knowledge. He kind of stuck with me when I was struggling, cause I wasn’t that great a player when I first got on with him, and he had faith in me and let me develop at my own pace, which was as fast as I possibly could, but it still seemed like forever, trying to get up to those guys’ level. And who knows if I even am yet, but it’s been an amazing, amazing trip. I feel incredibly lucky and I was just in the right place at the right time.
Dr. Kent: And what’s so interesting about David Grisman’s groups and those is that they can pick extremely fast on some crazy tunes, but he and a lot of that generation of players, they can really do melodies, you know, they can slow it down and play the tune.
Darol Anger: Oh yeah, that’s been such an important thing for me. And that’s something you aren’t necessarily going to get at first. I think many young players are kind of in a stage where they’re just adding stuff and I think it’s a necessary stage, you know, that people just instrumentally try to do more, and just add to their repertoire, and it’s not necessarily, the time, to focus in on the essence, the melody. I guess I’m kind of in a place where I’m starting to carve away at everything that doesn’t sound like me in my playing. It’s an interesting time where I’m actually working on eliminating stuff, rather than adding. I might go through another period of adding, you know. I certainly just recently have been really interested in Swedish and Scandinavian string band music. There’s this group called Vasen, great, amazing Scandinavian players. And that seems like I’m going to be adding a lot of stuff there, you know, but right now I’m just carving away, trying to get at the melody.
Dr. Kent: What projects are you working on right now?
Darol Anger: Well, I’m in Berkeley, California and I’m going to be playing a couple shows at the original Fillmore auditorium with the Yonder Mountain String Band tonight and tomorrow night. I’m really looking forward to that. Those guys are just some really great people. They’re very creative, exciting musicians, and it’s going to be fun. For some reason they seem to just love me, and I’m happy to be part of their world. That’s good, I’m just kind of sitting in with them. And then next week I’m going to be teaching at a fiddle camp in Big Sur, California. That’s south of Monterey, down on the coast there, and it’s going to be a beautiful place. I’m going to be working with the great Irish fiddle player Liz Carroll and Bruce Molsky, and the Clarridges, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Tristan Clarridge, six-time Grand National fiddle champion who plays cello with Crooked Still.
Dr. Kent: Oh, I have heard that. Yep, I’ve heard him play. And Liz Carroll is an extraordinary player, she played with, what’s the name of that group, Solas, was it?
Darol Anger: She had possibly played in Solas for a short time. Liz is actually one of the few fiddle players who I get scared to take my fiddle out of the case around her. She’s amazing, you know. But I’m used to being a little scared.
Dr. Kent: It’s funny that yeah, it would be fun to watch all the fiddle envy going on backstage between all the fiddle players.
Darol Anger: Oh, yeah.
Dr. Kent: No, but I think you’re all underpaid enough that you all respect each other, right?
Darol Anger: Oh, we love each other, you know. It’s just such a different, difficult instrument. I always like to say that there’s this imaginary nation of string players. We’re all kind of go through the same thing, we’re just trying to struggle to play this instrument, it’s very unforgiving and you know, we’re a community of people whose imaginary boundaries are scattered through and beyond all the other imaginary boundaries that people make up. We’re very aware of how difficult it is to do this, and are mostly really supportive and very admiring of each other’s work. Liz of course is just one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. And I’m actually really looking forward to getting over my fear this week, this next week, just to learn some Irish fiddle playing from her. She’s just so terrific, and she’s got a new record out with John Doyle, the guitar player.
Dr. Kent: Oh, he’s the one that makes me put my guitar back in the case.
Darol Anger: Yeah, those two together are just like a meltdown, you just think the whole world’s going to just come alive and start playing and spinning.
Dr. Kent: Exactly. Well, your music is very much admired, and I’m a huge fan of the Turtle Island String Quartet.
Darol Anger: Well, thanks.
Dr. Kent: As a classical composer, actually, that was one of my earliest introductions to some crazy harmonies.
Darol Anger: That’s great. Um, you mean, Jazz harmonies, right?
Dr. Kent: Do you still do anything with that group?
Darol Anger: You know, I see those guys a lot. I left the group, let’s see, we started the TISQ in 1985 and I left the group in ’96. But they’re still going, with two of the original members, and they’re just doing better than ever. I think the group is just amazing. So it’s exciting to have helped start something that’s become sort of an institution, you know. Or to have started something that seems to go by itself. I guess it’s something that the world needed, and now it’s continuing.
Dr. Kent: Well, it’s been such an honor chatting with you, and we’re going to listen to one tune on the way out here called Overture From the Acadian Suite. Talk about that for a second, and then…
Darol Anger: Oh yeah. That was inspired by my friend Michael Doucet, who has the group BeauSoleil. Michael is sort of a closet jazz fiddle player, and he’s quite the amazing guy in general. He came to me with some music that he got from a documentary that was made in the 30’s, which was all drawn from this amazing Cajun source material that was some of the first field tapes to be made in Louisiana. And it was turned into this movie score by Virgil Thompson. So there’s this amazing score for this movie, called The Louisiana Story, all based on Cajun music. Michael wanted to sort of turn it back into a piece that The Fiddlers Four could play. So there are two layers of digestion here that are required, you know.
So I did that, and then I wound up doing music for a documentary about that same movie. Michael did the voice-over narration soundtrack for it. So I wound up kind of adapting all that stuff, and now it’s just into another phase, it’s been through a whole cow’s stomach kind of thing. And it’s actually genuinely something really nice, so I’m kind of working on that for string orchestra, I want to develop that into something and maybe Michael and I will do solos on that, so it’s a project.
Dr. Kent: Well very cool, I’ll be psyched to listen to that with everybody else here, and I really appreciate you talking to us.
Darol Anger: Well it’s a pleasure, yeah, I hope you guys are having nice weather out there. Of course in California it’s always the same. It’s pretty fun. All right…
Dr. Kent: It’s creeping towards summer here, very slowly.
Darol Anger: All right, that’s good. We like that part.
Dr. Kent: So we can find out a lot more about Darol Anger on his website, http://www.darolanger.com, and there’s a ton of stuff on there including where he’s going to be appearing, and all his recordings and samples and all sorts of good stuff. Thank you for chatting with us today.
Darol Anger: Hey, well, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much.
Dr. Kent: And we’re going to listen to that track I was telling you about called Overture from the Acadian Suites, he just told us about that, let’s listen to it.
Dr. Kent: That was a beautiful tune by Darol Anger, and we’ll see you next week. Pick up a good book, and we’ll talk to you next time.