Music Philosophy of R.S. Pearson

Below is a collection of essays, mostly from liner notes.

In my music, and in my literary writings and philosophical essays I've tried to create something that has gone outside our present forms, something outside our present time and space meananderings. For this promethean dream or delusion I've had to pay the price, almost never being sure of a level of quality, always having ambivalence about the overall artistry of my work. Most are not really creating music that is really that different than the music of others around them. You can see this effect better historically than by looking at the present. I do believe that the early 20th century was a landmark era, with artists like the Dadaists and others creating a type of blank slate. But then essentially art went in similar directions again, locked in new patterns overall, sometimes having zero to do with the intent of the love of the new, other times taking up again the historical strain of Western civilization, sometimes taking more of a cue from the arts of Eastern lands. In my music I try to retain the pleasant but also start from the tradition of Dada and essentially say, "what would a more developed culture's music be, one that hasn't fallen victim to the pretence of being a modern serious composer, a composer with a serious ax-to-grind against society, etc."

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Most modern serious composers, even those that slide into the youth market, place their music somewhere. We also have a subgenera of serious experimental music such as Field Recording collage, Noise, Free Jazz, Ambient and many variations thereof. Where do I place my music???

My music is the result of what a person does who can compose in a serious style but who is more interested in what is known as song. I am drawn to folk music, but I call the progressive/art rock category of Eno, Tangerine Dream, Wire-related artists, etc. the folk music of the industrialized world, even though it seems very serious to those still stuck in the youth market. I chose often to experiment with the realm of song, with my definition of "song" being instrumental music that is pleasant enough not to un-nerve most listeners. Many of my peers who teeter on this youth-alternative subculture/serious music seesaw ignore this concern altogether, and thus composers who tend to think like I do might feel a bit out-numbered. I see myself as one of the few people in serious musical pursuits who often works in the realm of song, and I have been doing this since 1982. I'm trying to invent new variations on bass patterns, modal structures, patches, and rhythms. Working on musical innovation combined with the creative act of titling short works, and thus creating a vivid and meaningful visual-imaginative atmosphere creates a style of work that extends Eric Satie's aesthetic and creates a type of musical Surrealism that is closely tied with Breton's original intentions.

Some work on this CD is a departure into a more ambient type of music than my usual work. This music was improvised, but first constraints were created. It is the first use of some new equipment that I obtained in 2001: the Electrix Mo-Fx and Electrix Filter Queen, two rack mount devices . These boxes were a good filtering and processing system for straight keyboard sounds, and I used these all together with my twenty-year old Casio 1000P, which I use often for its unique generative-music techniques.

I believe society's needs change and music is a language that addresses those needs. My music is a collection of statements that are aware of these needs. It tries to get the listener into a positive or reflective emotional state, at once bypassing a normal expectancy from music but also fulfilling what many usually hear as pleasant. I developed a basic level of traditional musical ability from classical piano lessons. My interests by an early age were artists like the Surrealists and philosophers such as Tristan Tzara and Kierkegaard -- and I try to fuse the language of tonal music with abstract qualities that I have developed by studying such artists and authors.

I am fond of using the generative music capabilities of a process that I came upon in 1983 and have used in my music since that time. Around 1983, the Casio company released the 1000P, a heavy, full sized keyboard that had a very special "sequencer" which really wasn't a sequencer at all. It enables one to play on the left hand intervalled sequences that you program yourself, which change with the playing you do on the first two octaves. The sequences it produces are ever changing in notes depending on what you are doing with your hands. The intervals programmed can become anything -- a fifth or a tenth -- depending on what notes you play, as they are just measured in numbers (13344002255, etc. with zeros becoming rest notes). This technique, I believe, is one of the best yet created in generative music. It produces music that is a perfect combination of the intent of the composer while leaving good elements up to chance.

The works on this CD are works I composed in 1984 and 1985. They show the aesthetically pleasing yet very unusual possibilities of this technique. I didn't program each note, but I did set up the interval patterns. As I let the keyboard play the pattern, I put my hands on the bottom half of the keyboard until the notes filled out the pattern into a sequence that I liked. When rest notes are used, it is at times unpredictable what the user will hear, but it is still the same pattern repeating in a different environment. What you hear is the result of that and the keyboard inputted into the external input of a Roland System 100 Synthesizer. At times, I had little idea what the outcome was going to be, but since I had used the technique for over a year at this point, and could compose without generative devices, I was able to come up with these works.

 

I have been composing music for solo synthesizer for over 20 years, and I haven't felt like I've fit in, because all the major synthesizer composers rely on multiple overdubs. There are of course exceptions that fall through the cracks but those are mostly obscure. When you get into my art form, you are in the realm of those who are not trying to sound like a techno band, or a new ager, or any accepted academic style of composing modern music. I got my first synthesizer at 12 in 1975, and started recording on it soon after, so my experience goes back to an age that would sound a bit preposterous. I haven't released music professionally partly because of the stigma of what my music is: it's about notes: not about recording studio "clearness" or about how much a certain style of music sounds like another certain style of music. I've only really tried to satisfy myself, by doing things with notes, and often recording them any way I saw fit that would just document the notes, not the sound. My music sounds fairly unique because of it's sparseness. All other art forms have styles that are loved because of their primativeness, for this viewing of the texture of the artist's nature which is not heavily hewn by any art industry, so why not electronic music?

Most people today do the experimental music thing under the guise of a rock backdrop. Some do it under a drone or a noise architecture. There are also those who do it under the guise of a free jazz or atonal choatic rambling. There are very few people who really look outside of their century and create music that is somewhat timeless -- so many things are going to seem dated in fifty years -- and it will be a few, like Coltrane, Christian Vander and a few others, that are really playing outside of the backdrops of their time, and are creating timeless music.

We always need something from the vitamins of music that is different from age to age. New problems from new situations arise and there must be new music to combat it. Sometimes the situations are old, and there are those like Bach or Ravel that still give us the juice we need to solve the problems of the day. But I think the age old use of the "scales" are an essential part of the constitution of a human being, even if they are used in the way that the Chinese or Moroccans use them. High music always has a positive physiological affect on a human being. I like what Brian Eno said, "Avant-garde music is sort of research music. You're glad someone's done it but you don't necessarily want to listen to it." I don't mind seeing a few bands that basically play noise. It largely depends on what kind of noise they are playing. Mostly because I know some of these people and they are brilliant people, and sometimes I really like what they are "saying" through their noise. But I don't think that even they listen back to much of their live performances that much. If you talk to them, they will say they listen to Bruckner or Stravinsky or something like that.

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The Idea of Escaped Music

I use the phrase "music that has escaped" to indicate a type of music that truly doesn't fall into categories. So many times, when I have looked to hear something new, and I had read all the hype about this or that music, I merely found something that sounded very much like something else. The music that was supposed to be innovative, seemed merely just hyped for ad copy. The sad true fact about really innovative art is that when it first appears in the world, it is a friendship with a totally non-familiar type of sentience: that of the composer themselves. The music that escaped is music that has escaped from the world of rock, of free jazz, of techno, of drone, of noise, of classical, field recording collage and of all the other major cages music must live in. Music is like mathematics: all the major inventions of the future are able to be mathematically modeled, so there are pragmatically infinite possibilities of how mathematics can be used in a useful sense. Music is the same way, but if all the forms can be somewhat classified, we are much less free than we suppose ourselves to be. Escaped music in the beginning has few allies except the individuals that form it.

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I want much of my music to be somewhat sparse because I want unique ideas to show through. You can look at my music more in the tradition of music writing for the piano or organ, but in this case it's for the synthesizer. Things may change in the future, but for now this is how I see my work.

I think when a composer starts to add tracks to their original ideas, often the result can become overproduced or canned sounding, homogenized to the patterns of existing music. The quantifying effect of much MIDI music has similar problems.

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With any polyartist that you like, if you find that you like one of their arts, the chances are high that you like will the other art or arts they express themselves in. Da Vinci was a beautiful painter, but he was also a brilliant student of human nature and science. Dali, although a flawed soul like so many, was not only a painter of magnitude but was also an excellent writer (see the works "Diary of a Genius" and "My Secret Life," which are surreally humorous autobiographies). If you like one art of a polyartist you will probably find things in the work of another one you are drawn to. If Andre Breton was to compose music, it probably wouldn't have been simple choral song structures but would enable aspects of the surrealism that he wrote about. Likewise, my music is a byproduct of my life philosophy of not repeating things that other people have done but instead to venture out in new areas -- not new by being cheaply dissonant and obscure, but by exploring new areas that are recognizable in a positive feeling.

Being a polyartist is not that easy if one is born into a normal disposition in life. To create music that is perfectly recorded, with no mistakes or human relics -- is not only not a strong preference, it's not really always an option. But putting the same kind of restrictions on innovative polyartists as you would on innovative mono-artists might not be as fair. I know when I started seeing my work as a type of free jazz of modern neo-classicial experimental music, it was easy to feel easy about the flaws. On most of my work, you won't hear any flaws, but occasionally, and since all my work is basically improvised, I'll be picking out some melodic line and I'll have a small fumble. But as I also work in literary and theoretical areas, I don't have time to re-record an improvised work. It's not even humanly possible, really. And focusing on what is human is where it's really at if you are out in the outskirts of not even mainstream music but experimental music as well. As an experimental composer I don't want to avoid melodic music. But to do so means that I have to actually play melodic lines.

I think an artist is lucky not noticed by a lot of people. Duchamp stated this idea. It gives the artist total freedom to keep doing what they want and not what people expect them to do. My unconscious seems to know this and I have had little drive to get myself noticed in the several years I've been composing as an adult. But this idea has now changed for me. I've given my music to friends and a few other composers at random and have only had a few things brought out into the general market myself or other labels.

In many of these recordings I am using a keyboard that is so magical that I don't like telling people what it is. But I believe in my playing enough to have faith in my abilities and so I will talk about this special instrument, which really was a fluke of the manufacturer.

Around 1983, Casio released the 1000P. It was a heavy, full sized keyboard, that had a lot of the sounds you find on better professional organs such as the Farfisas. On the 1000P was a very special "sequencer" which really wasn't a sequencer at all. It was a cross between something Brian Eno and Harry Partch would have thought up. It enables one to play on the left hand intervalled sequences, which change with the playing you do on the first two octaves. So, I tell everyone this just to prove that what I'm playing back then, before there really was a lot of computer technology is really live music.

All my music is played live. It doesn't have that canned sound that so much of modern independent "electronic" or "symphonic" music has because much of modern music is channel through a computer and limited by it in the process.

The sequences it produces are ever changing in notes depending on what you are doing in your left hand. The intervals programmed can become anything -- a fifth or a tenth -- as they are just measured in numbers (13344002255, etc. with zeros becoming rest notes).

The thing musicians have strove for over the last thirty years has not just been to write good songs, it's as often as that, to produce music that is "hi-fi." This has left a lot of gifted composers out in the dark. In all the art fields, music has suffered this penalty exclusively. If you are a writer, all you need is your pad and pen, or even a cheap computer, and if you are a painter, you can express your gift on paint and canvases, those which aren't always cheap, still don't hold you back the way professional audio equipment did in the 1980's when I composed many of my best works.

Like many composers, I was discouraged from following my dreams of being a composer by my wonderful but conservative parents. No matter how serious I was about wanting to be a real classical composer, my dad still thought, since I listened to a lot of rock music, that I was going to wind up a "lounge lizard" oneday. I must have heard him say "lounge lizard" a hundred times by my 21st birthday.

I try to compose music that is both enjoyable yet exotic and avant-garde.

I am classically trained up to a basic intermediary point and try to bring new vivid feelings and thoughts into music.

By putting a certain style of sound against a title, I often mean to show a different side, a sympathetic side or some hidden aspect of psychology, to get someone into a visual aspect of the music that is impossible when someone calls a peice something like "Untitled No. 3" or "Symphony #1."

From an internet press-release.

R.S. Pearson's music sounds like a post-industrial and often pleasant musical surrealism. A prolific and studied composer of over 25 hours of music which is currently being released on CD, he gets outside of the normal forms of music while still often still remaining in tonal and harmonic ranges.

Why does the world accept solo acoustic guitar, piano and organ, music, but not solo synthesizer? Why is the synthesizer determined to be only an ensemble or multitrack instrument?. R.S. Pearson thinks this is a mistake and see's right through it. The synthesizer is as vibrant as an acoustic piano, organ or guitar, all of which have a canon of works which people regularly listen to, but rarely is music composed for a solo synthesizer.

Do you like to hear one man drive a synthesizer? Do you like to the sound of a synthesizer driven to the extreme? Pearson's music is mostly a recording of live improvisations. A true keyboardist, Pearson could transpose simple songs and harmonize them into all the different keys by the time he was 16. He played his first live improvised gigs at 18 and developed a unique synthesizer lead style. Check out his recordings on Regenerative Music.


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