Jun and I met at our SGI Florida Nature & Culture Center in September 2016. We started talking in the lunch line:
"What do you do?” I asked.
"I play free jazz.“
"No kidding! No one admits to that anymore!"
We resolved to play together. We had our first tour in the fall of 2017, playing Studio Z, Phalen Poetry Park, a barn, and a club. This ended with recording a CD, Before Dawn. When I think of it, I am amazed at how we came together having never played before. Jun and I decided to do this again. Studio Z is the first stop of our 5-day, 6-event tour. We will also play Phalen Poetry Park, the barn, Jazz Central, and end at the East Side Freedom Library. And, yes, we will record again!
Tell us about Musical Ecology.
This is a hard question! Part of Musical Ecology is an aesthetic/philosophic statement, which I am still developing. I am going to leave it to your curiosity to define it! This music is not "classical," not "jazz." Actually, it doesn’t really matter what I call it. For ASCAP, there are two categories: "serious" and "popular." This music is not "popular!" So I guess this is serious music. Musical Ecology is the name of this ensemble.
Who is in the ensemble?
For this ensemble I am bridging two different musical streams in my musical life: composing and improvising. The musicians I chose for this project have a wide range of complimentary strengths. Jun Miyake is touring in Japan with pioneering drummer Pheeroan akLaff, in his "Dear Freedom" ensemble. They have collaborated for several years. Jun lives in New York City, and performs with a wide variety of musicians.
Musical Ecology is Todd Harper, composer/piano/director; Jun Miyake, metal & bamboo flutes, tenor saxophone; Aaron Kerr, acoustic/electric cello; Eric Coursen, drums/percussion. All of these musicians performed with Jun last year, but not as the same unit. Drummer Eric Coursen and I have a long history. We played together in “The Seekers of Beauty” from 1988 to 1993, and reconnected in 2015. You can find Eric playing for Haitian dance classes, and playing in Brazilian, Cuban, & West African ensembles. Cellist Aaron Kerr also has many hats as member of The Modern Spark Trio (classical) his band Dissonant Creatures (original rock.) We also collaborate with Eric in The Open Air Trio. Aaron plays cello and electric cello, which can take a bass or a soloist role. When I have a paying gig, Aaron and Eric are the first people I call. We have a book of original and interesting tunes to play for cafes, Farmer’s markets, and private functions.
How do you and Jun Miyake collaborate long distance?
It’s kind of an odd process, and we are defining it as we go along. For this ensemble, I tend to write more music than we could possibly play, and then edit it down in rehearsal to find the essential elements. What remains are vehicles for engaging inventions. My tendency has been to bring in more of my musical friends, to make things bigger, but at the moment, I am going deeper with a smaller unit.
Tell us about the theme and the various new pieces for "Ending the war on trees."
While there are many great musical works which are not programmatic, I tend to write about topics. Shiny voracious Beetles addressed the attackers of my plum and cherry trees. Snake River Trail is a tone poem about a walk in humid hot woods before a thunderstorm. Forgotten Forests is an evocative work regarding the forests which exist only in our memory. However, in these serious times, we need to lift our spirits. I am ending with the idea of resilience, “ Old tree, laughing in the blizzard”. At the end of the concert, we will have a short dialogue about the connection between ecology and music.
TODD HARPER & JUN MIYAKE
MUSICAL ECOLOGY: ENDING THE WAR ON TREES
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