Birder started as a piece of music written for solo tenor banjo as a study of the music of Charlie Parker — Bird. It was composed by applying various tedious musical operations, (affecting tessitura, duration, key, etc), to material derived from the Omnibook — a well known collection of his solo transcriptions published by the American kingpin of jazz education Jamey Aebersold. Whenever I hear this music, (rarely and usually by chance), I am reminded that Charlie Parker is still a miracle. It’s nice to know that I at least have that in common with Professor Aebersold who’s work I am clearly indebted to here. This part of the piece — the melody I guess you would call it — took an eternity for me to create as I had made a pact with myself to obey certain constraints. These constraints were ridiculous and I have since made a pact with myself to never do such a thing again. To give you an example, I started by taking the first bar from the first solo then the second bar of the second solo and so on. When I got to the end of the book I simply went to the second bar of the first solo and so on. I entered all of this stuff into my computer in this painstaking manner and then went about fiddling with it in ways that I mention above.
Why I did this to myself I can’t say for sure and if the listener deciphers anything Charlie Parker about this music I will eat my shoe. I simply wanted to write a long melody that didn’t repeat and that took place all within the first position of the banjo. Why it didn’t occur to me to just improvise one is a mystery. I can only say that the meditative quality of composing seems to help me get through the day and at the time of writing the thing my wife was expecting a baby, I was working construction, and was in a state of denial, panic and fear which I have since learned is the hallmark of most first time expecting fathers. With good reason.
This music was recorded in one take by me and Jean (Martin) who decided, (I think because of the name of the piece), that he would simultaneously record sounds immediately outside of his studio — located in Toronto’s west end. If you listen carefully (and really there is no need to — please just relax and enjoy it) you will hear pages being turned and sighs of exhaustion. The things was just too long to take a second crack at it. Only so many hours in the day, time is money, and so on.
When were playing with the mix of the environmental sounds relative to that of the banjo I think we found the pieces completion and an unexpected link to the fine art of birding was made.
Roger Tory Peterson lived what I think was an ideal life rich with art, science, love, family, career and total commitment to his work. Birds are in rough shape these days in North America and they are unquestionably the best singer-songwriters we have. I think very highly of the late Mr Peterson and feel honored to have been in touch with his family around the release of this record. It seems appropriate to dedicate this record to him as well as to Charlie Parker, who sadly, seemed to have had a much harder time of things. I can’t possibly know this but I think they would have liked each other.
There is a little something we cooked up at the end of Birder which is meant as a treat for the listener who gets through the thing. Of particular note is Christine Duncan’s trombone and theremin contribution which is really worth the wait. The recording, mixing, mastering, cover photo and layout was all completed in one lovely day while I was living on a couch.
To me now, this CD is the piece Birder. The little black notes on the page, as usual, were just the first part of it’s construction. The mix, artwork and the dedication are every bit important as the music. God bless America.
- 1Birder (2007), 36:24
- Label: Barnyard Records
- BR 0312 / 2009
- UCC 777320152329
- Total duration: 36:24
- 128 mm × 128 mm × 3 mm
- 25 g