Listening to the naïve folk music of America sung to me by my father with his ukulele was my first musical experience. I was also surrounded by his 78 collection of jazz and rhythm and blues in combination with my mother’s preference of classical. We had a piano in the laundry room which I fell in love with and jammed on as a three year old. My parents were both physical education teachers with an avid interest in music. As I visited my Grandparents I found a player piano and listened to ragtime which I learned myself. My first piano lessons were with Joe Roman of Suffern, New York.
As a nine-year old I developed a modal music experimenting with the Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian improvisation. I was simply fascinated by Leonard Bernstein’s Children’s Concert and watch them at 4 in the afternoon every Saturday. His West Side Story was produced at this time and had an immense influence on me in my earlier days. His mix of classical and jazz elements began my dream to compose someday.
Shortly thereafter the arrival of the Beatles took me by storm and I always enjoyed their different approach to typical tonality. I enjoyed writing my first compositions with them as my model. With my brother Willy we started our own rock group introducing my own brand of sixties music. We were lucky enough to have received a record contract with Sire in 1968. By then my music expanded into the psychedelic style of this period. I discovered the true blues by playing gigs with Paul Butterfield. I wrote expansive works with imaginative metaphysical passages with the freeness of the music of the period.
I wanted to study at a good university for music and major in composition. Therefore I shot for the stars and applied for an audition at the Juilliard School. The professors at the times included Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter and Hall Overton. They sat me down on the piano and asked me to perform a piece of mine. Normally they would review a score of music meticulously written and prepared. However my capability at this moment to present a well hand-written piece of music was beyond me. Surprisingly enough I was accepted and matriculated into this marvelous school in 1969. My ears and mind became so expanded that the record I recorded in 1970 had absolutely no commercial potential. The stage was set for the unusual path I would venture to finally develop my personal concert music.
I studied immediately counterpoint in the Florentine style of Palestrina. Roger Sessions was my composition teacher who saw this important training was missing in my first attempts at score writing. Nevertheless he was fascinated at my harmonical ideas. Meanwhile I sat hours after receiving my harmonic training trying to find that special lost chord. Therefore my rock took on the harmonies of Tristan and Isolde. The entire nineteenth century music from Schubert to Mahler was introduced to me. I would also open up musical dictionaries and listen hours on end to many various composers I had never has the opportunity to cherish.
In my following years at Juilliard I was challenged to orchestrate for full orchestra my rock compositions. Unfortunately these pieces are still waiting for a premiere. With the assistance of Hall Overton I learned through Bartok and Prokovief compositional form. I imagined this as being an architectural work building music with a frame like a masterpiece of El Greco. Hall and Michael Willens taught me the essence of modern jazz harmony and with the NRBQ introduced me to Thelonious Monk. I then took on a study with the masterful theoretician George Russell. I had written a piece in 1970 called “Twang on a Tritone” which showed my preference for this interval. In combination with “The Lydian Chromatic Concept” of George Russell, the sonatas of Scriabin and the impressionism of Ravel and Debussy I found new modes to construct harmonies and melodies. The groundwork for my theory “Symmetry as the Fundament of Sound Creation” was established. I graduated from Juilliard with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1973 with this theory as my final dissertation. I returned once again in 1979 to finish with a Masters of Music. Since 1981 I have resided in Europe and have interested Schott to publish my theory in book form.
During this six-year break from the Juilliard I performed with various ensembles my jazz connected with modern concert music throughout New York and on tour. Columbia records flirted with the idea of having me although throughout the seventies, music was simplifying from the wilder experiments of the sixties. After the closing of my Master’s Degree I decided to proceed to Europe to see whether the environment would be more open for my concepts. I had developed the style I called Jarockla which meant the fusion of three styles of music; Jazz, Rock and Classical. This has proven to withstand time to be the foundation of my musical philosophy.
I am not the first to have formulated an interest in combining these three styles. At the time of Bernstein’s Mass in 1970 he originally called this a Rock Mass. Also with a crossover into the Funk of Fred Wesley, the trombonist of James Brown, we have a vital version of Rhythm and Blues Jazz. Obviously George Antheil, George Gershwin and Igor Stravinsky had proposed jazz elements successfully with modern concert music. With the coalescence of Modern Jazz and Impressionism with Scriabin and the Russian Avant-Garde we have an automatic symbiosis between these two styles. The vigourous foundation for a new music has been established and is waiting for the world to rediscover. I have dedicated my life to this convergence because it promises homogeneity. The symmetry of my harmonics can be highly dissonant nevertheless pleasant.
The concepts of pointillism can return to a more harmonic approach found in Alban Berg and Josef Matthias Hauer blending expressionistic music leaving the inert attitude as well as returning to the marvelous harmonies of Messiaen, Bartok and Scriabin and others. Dodecaphony can also be harmonic. My entire theory constructs harmonies through various modes which can be highly chromatic. My belief is there are three important elements in music. These are melody, harmony and rhythm. Embellishments are counterpoint, superimpositions and polymetrics. Above all the rhythmics of jazz can bring a new life to modern dance like Alvin Ailey.
The primitive nature of rock can exhibit a raw energy found in Stravinsky as well as the Rumble in West Side Story. John Coltrane opened a new modal perspective with the onset of African Brass. Mixing world elements like Indian, Balinese, Bulgarian and Arabian can be rhythmically and melodically well-utilized. Progressing with open-mindedness can reward creativity in very many fashions. I hope from the bottom of my soul that a new time of the blending of talents comes to pass. An opera with a twist of all three styles may be an encounter for the future. Poetry intertwined with the expressiveness soulfulness of modern music can, like Persephone from Stravinsky, be a refreshing direction for a stage piece. Let the harmony sail and the melody take wing with a dance to the rhythms of the natives.