Thursday, April 01, 2010


The year was 1981. February. I had been on the road touring with "Amy and Members Only" for several months, my first "professional musician" job. We landed this really sweet gig in Stratton, Vermont, where Olympic skiers train, to play a one night party for the U.S. Olympic Team. Payment was 6 days worth of lift tickets and lodging in a huge chalet for the whole band.

First day there, me and the bass player, Dow Tomlin, took some skiing lessons, since we were the only two newbies. It went pretty well, and by the end of the day we were doing the beginners slopes, him more successfully than me by far. I have never had a good sense of balance, and NOTHING about downhill skiing felt intuitive to me (plus I hadn't and still haven't ever been water skiing). I could get down and only have 3 or 4 major falls or tree crashes with each run.

Second day there, back at it that morning, my hardware kept malfunctioning and one or both skis would pop off when I would put any stress on them. They tried to tune them twice but it kept happening to me. Then it happened at a very bad time and I took a horrible fall, dislocating my "trick shoulder" which I had major surgery on just 18 months prior. Not good. As I writhed in the snow in excruciating pain, bellowing at the top of my lungs, I was finally able to pop it in myself, and then I somehow got down the rest of the way and went to see the on-site doctor. Well, he took one look at my surgical scar and dished out a huge bottle of pain-killlers. No more skiing for me this week.

With several days alone in the chalet with my keyboards, I decided to continue composing additional sections to the suite of "serious music" that I had started in college, and which I blogged about here and here. I had actually started a slow and very melodic piano-solo piece and finished it in my head for a third "movement", but since I couldn't actually play very well with my arm in a sling, I started writing a fourth movement, one I envisioned as being a very strong Proclamation of life.

I stumbled upon some very cool chords...the right hand playing F major and Bb major, over the left hand playing Bb and Eb (a 4th higher than the tonic). Sounded very progressive to me at the time...still does actually. Probably borrows quite heavily from Keith Emerson and Aaron Copeland, not surprisingly. Some shifting time signatures, and then a B-section in 5/4. I wrote it all down on staff paper, and got very excited about this piece. I remember that the guitar player, Dan Searles, loved the B-section and couldn't get enough of it. That is, until I kept playing (through headphones of course) after everyone else crashed. They would yell down, "Hey John, that clunky sound is keeping us awake" -- me banging the keys!

The amazing thing is that I have managed to keep up with the hand-written scores of this piece for the last 30 years. You can view the A-section here...and the B-Section here. Notice the pretentiousness on page one: "Sonata #1 for Polyphonic Synthesizer and Piano". LOL!!! and "Part 1 - Exposition". Ah youth...pretentious and didn't care a bit.

Now, those of you that listened to the the song "Passage" earlier may notice that the final section of Passage is exactly like the B-section of this piece, Proclamation. Here is the story. Originally, Passage was JUST the A-section, repeated twice. It only had to be 16 measures long to meet the requirements of the Freshman Music Comp class! But as the years went by and I continued to work on this "suite", I started playing a "reprise" version of Passage that ended with the 5/4 section of Proclamation, and that is actually what I recorded a few months ago for that other posting. Perhaps soon I will record the original Passage and the other three pieces in the suite and put them all up on one page so they can be listened to in order.

Anyway, for tonight, here is "Proclamation". Enjoy

here is a direct link to the mp3 for non-shockwave environments

Painting courtesy of Ken Ahlering

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