Documentary Film Music 1988: Jazz Canon, Mirrors
I enjoyed this chance to create something on the ‘smooth jazz’ side; something melodic and singable – yet employ some contemporary classical techniques at the same time. As the title implies, “Jazz Canon” is a canon, which is like a round except that each ‘subject’ (= melody), of the round in this piece is much longer than usual and don’t repeat after one statement. The subject is heard in the piano for the first 15 seconds. After, the subject is heard in three voices that enter a bar apart one after the other and overlap. The first subject is stated again with the piano, the second with a piano voice an octave higher, and the third a staccato FM synth voice from the Synclavier. The middle section of the piece was inspired by Pat Metheny’s sound with an easy going guitar solo. That section is accompanied by lots of percussion and a beautiful sub bass that is made from a 100kHz sample rate sample of a single guitar note – but being played back at about 35Hz.
Mirrors explores two instruments, the guitar and and piano, playing together in harmony – but the harmony is an an inversion of the other. When the guitar goes up, the piano goes down the same distance. When one goes down, the other goes up. The ear could hear either one as the melody. The D50 plays large quartal chords behind these instruments
That move happened when I was invited to join Kopperhead Studios – an excellent studio in the residential streets of North Canton, Ohio – about a 30 minute drive from my apartment in north Akron. Kopperhead was the child of Lee Kopp, a trumpet player and self taught audio/music professional. Lee is an expert in the New England Digital Synclavier Digital Music System. His was one of the larger systems in the country and he became my Synclavier mentor.
Lee’s Synclavier had 32 sampling voices, 32 FM Voices, two racks of MIDI interfaces (8 ports each), 16MB of RAM (quite expensive) and a 40GB Winchester Hard Drive (12″ platter), LTC sync, MIDI NET and a full multi out. Typically, his system consisted of a keyboard controller station and a 6 foot tower located in another room. The sound of the Synclavier is legendary – and even though it’s architecture output with only a 16bit audio resolution – it sounded more open and natural than nearly any product I’ve since heard – even 25 years later. Most of Kopperhead’s library was tweaked for size efficiency by Mr. Kopp to afford large ensembles to be sequenced and play back simultaneously within the 16MB memory limit to facilitate quick production.
Lee sent me a pic of his Synclavier room as it is today. The room hasn’t changed much! It sits on the same table in the same place in the same room on the second floor, but the surrounding gear has changed over the last 30 years. The audio monitors back then we used gigantic JBLs (the largest monitors I’ve ever seen to this day). There were no flat screen monitors in the room, that’s for sure! When I joined in late 1987, the terminal/monitor, an ancient DEC VT100, positioned on the left of the VPK keyboard controller. That monitor was later updated to an Apple Macintosh II when Lee updated the ABLE processors.Lee created his own foot pedal system that provided a series of pedals for level control, keyboard sustain and a punch-in pedal. Multi outs ran to a Soundcraft console and outboard gear rack/patch bay for reverbs, etc. on the right. The actual tower was then and is now off an adjacent hallway. This place will always be a special temple of music creation to me.