In October of 2008, I had a rare week off. I grabbed my keyboard and laptop and drove to my cabin in the juniper forest a few miles south of the tiny town of Ash Fork, Arizona. It is "off the grid" so I had to bring battery power. It is so quiet up there, and the fall and spring are spectacular! I would record every morning till my batteries drained, then charge them at night when I turned on the generator. The experience changed my music forever.
My improvisations were long, between 10-20 minutes on average, but they tended to group themselves into sections. I decided to make the sections into "movements" so that the listening experience would make more sense. This is the only way I have ever found to actually have a reason to group improvisations into movements. To emphasize this trait, I created poems (about the Ash Fork property) with each line of the poem become a title for one of the movements. To play the entire "poem", you need to play the entire improvisation.
The collection, Ash Fork Verses, has been compiled into three sets, which are being released separately.
The first group of the second set of pieces concerns a bird landing on a wild rose. Ash Fork is located at the base of a fault from which springs a cliff that ascends about 1,000 ft. This cliff winds its way across the state for about 200 miles, and is known as the Mogollon Rim. On top lies the Coconino Plateau (elevation of about 7000 ft,), through which cuts the Grand Canyon. Wild rose is a staple of the underbrush in the forest of ponderosa pine, which covers much of the plateau. I have not found any wild rose near my cabin, which is lower, but I could not ignore the quote from Edward MacDowell which is featured prominently in the second piece. These quotes just happen sometimes. Shrug.
The second group of pieces concerns my shed. Previous owners of my property near Ash Fork, Arizona lived in the 200 sq. ft. one-room cabin that I now use for storage. This is the structure that I have drawn for the cover of these recordings. The last owner started a new house, which we have finished. The old cabin has become my "shed". It has a circulating roof vent that I really must get up there and grease. On windy days, the sound of the rotating vent mixes beautifully with the birds.
There is a story to the third group of pieces, but I would prefer to not get into it. It is enough to say that it has been painful.
I was walking along the dry creek bed that meanders across our property when I found, cleverly hidden behind a bush, an abandoned coyote den. It didn't look that old, but I could not see any pups (or mother) inside, The den was deep and the ground hard, it must have taken some effort to dig. I could only imagine the family that called it their home. The den was well hidden. I did find it one other time, but have not found it since. Did she cover it up? I don't know. They are certainly successful parents, choruses of coyotes sing every night! This is the inspiration for the last group of pieces.
Glenn Stallcop is a composer, pianist, and a long-time double bassist with the Phoenix Symphony. He has recorded many
albums of piano improvisation over the last 20 years. He is a well-established composer with over 100 published works for orchestra, chamber music and vocal works, solo piano and double bass....more