The official video for totally epic The Solid State Siren.
Roger CortonWe haven’t talked in a while. Is it time to get back to new music?
JCHNot yet. Still dealing with some nagging health issues.
RCSay no more. OK, so why this video now?
JCHWell, aren’t you the one who’s always after me to keep the site (cough) ‘fresh’? A lot of people don’t get a chance to hear the whole piece just from the ‘snippets’.
RCYou mean the people who you often describe as “wanting something for nothing” (laughs).
JCH. Yeah. Those people. But after a while, the vast majority of sales that are to be made have been made. So it makes sense to present the thing as it was meant to be heard.
RCAnd you’ve gotten good results from doing this with Progress, right?
RCOne thing I think matters is how the three pieces relate [to one another]. It wasn’t until I listened to the whole thing four or five times that I caught ‘the structure’–as you like to say.
JCHCOOL! I used to get people all the time who would say that the three pieces had nothing in common. And I think that came from listening to them discretely.
RCYou mean hidden under the stairs? (laughs)
JCHGood one. I mean as separate things. Like when you download them as individual songs.
RCWell they are very different in tone. But the more I listen to the whole thing the more I hear how many connections there are.
JCHThe key is the middle of course.
RCRight. Right. I have to admit, when I first heard the middle I didn’t much care for it.
JCHI’ve heard that a lot too (laughs).
RCBut it’s grown on me. The more I listen to it the harder it sounds. Hard to play, I mean.
JCHIt’s some of the most technically challenging stuff I’ve ever recorded.
RCI get that now. At first blush it sounds simple.
JCHWell it’s one of my attempts to do chamber music and there’s no ‘shredding’ in that context. You’re having a ‘conversation’ between the players and it’s only tough if the conversation is complicated–if that makes any sense. But I have to say–and you know I rarely say anything like this, but I’m very proud of my piano playing on Part II.
RCYou? Satisfied? How so?
JCHBecause it’s crazy tough. It just doesn’t sound sexy. But I’ve been practicing for thirty years now and it’s the first thing I’ve recorded where I thought to myself, “Holy Shit, I’m not just noodling here–I’m actually playing some real chamber music!” It’s hard to explain (laughs). So much ‘Prog’ is just noodling.
RCYeah, I think we’ve beaten that topic to death by now, so… moving on! Now when I first heard Part III (Many Words) I thought it had a lot of ideas that came out of nowhere. Now I hear that they start right at the beginning and then when you hear them in Part III they’re being sort of summed up.
JCHEXACTLY! That’s really impressive. I know I sound all patronizing but really that’s how a musicologist would describe it. Beethoven
RCNot Beethoven again!
JCHAs I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted, Beethoven was always being quoted that he had a story in mind when he wrote. He never told people what the story was, but he needed that story in his mind to act like a road map.
RCOK, so what’s the story?
JCHHave you been listening to anything I’ve been saying?
RCSure. What’s the story? (laughs)
JCHNot funny. But here are not one but TWO hints. First, Part II is labeled Rondo da caccia. And ‘da caccia’ is Italian for…
RCReally pretentious (laughs)?
JCHA chase. Man, you are on fire today. NOT. But Part II is a chase.
RCSorry. I think you’re finally starting to rub off on me.
JCHI’ve heard that sooooo many times over the years. Apparently, sooner or later I drag everyone down (laughs). And the second hint? Think in terms of characters. That’s how ol’ Ludwig would do it. Hopefully you hear the ‘Siren’ as one of the main characters in the story. And hopefully, the more you listen to the whole thing, the more you’ll hear the other characters–and the connections between the three Parts.
RCGot it. So… what’s next?
JCHBack to physical therapy and that gosh darned opera.