Out of all the tracks on the album, this one probably has the longest history. In fact, this arrangement was requested by composer Tommy Tallarico… right after the release of the American Album. And, it features guest performer David White on solo trombone, who I went to college with (and played trombone next to in the school orchestra) even further back, in the year 2000.
So… after the American Album, and before Video Games Live was born, Tommy was working on a soundtrack for a new game. I happened to be visiting Tommy at his place in San Juan Capistrano, and he showed me the work in progress. So, long before the game was released, I was given a synth-only preview of the Aurelia theme, complete with an indication that it would a fine candidate for a remix, should I feel so inclined. It was obvious that he was quite taken with the theme he'd written, and you can see why here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-GXf3Ukync
What happened next? Well, I did try arranging the theme a couple times, but it never quite stuck. Life happened, other projects happened, and this remix got shelved. But when it was time to assemble American Pixels, I took this idea down from the shelf, dusted it off, and started it again. Then another idea joined with this one… the notion to make it a performance piece. Specifically, a trombone solo.
Why trombone? Well, I grew up playing trombone. I was a band geek; I played in orchestra, jazz ensemble, marching band, Dixieland, All-State and All-County groups, and, I played the occasional solo. (I also ended up playing some in college, even though by that point I was focused more on composition.) And speaking of solos, well, I had this issue with the available repertoire, and that was that it was… limited, in terms of genres. Either you’d find a classical solo that worked well with piano or the orchestra, or, you’d find something avant-garde that was weird, minimalistic, or fused with very strange and experimental electronics. There wasn’t that much of that fun middle avenue of electronic fusion that allowed for cool modern grooves and timbral fusion, while still keeping the performance challenging and impressive. So, I set out to see if I could change that.
That said, this is a true performance piece. I wrote this with the full experience in mind: a solo performer, on stage, playing their heart out to a theme that only a true expert could nail, surrounded by an awesome electronic atmosphere, all through the scope of video game music. I did bring in some avant-garde elements, for fun – if you listen carefully in the beginning there are segments where the sheet music actually instructs the player to blow through the mouthpiece, assembled the instrument, etc. But, there are also wacky solo sections later on where the trombone gets to play around over a mixture of aquatic elements, jazz, and even a touch of dubstep. All the while, the Aurelia theme from Advent Rising is honored, as is composer Tommy Tallarico.
From the start, I’d envisioned this with my old college buddy David White as the lead soloist. He and I had played classical music together back in SUNY Purchase, but I knew he was also into jazz, could flow easily between genres, and even following college has shown some remarkably impressive skill as a jazz composer. In fact I’d invite you all to check out his work, here: dwjo.bandcamp.com
On yet another side note… in February of 2014, I blew out my knee doing capoeira. One night at the end of a workout, I was going for an acrobatic trick, and completely tore my ACL and meniscus on takeoff. It was a life-changing injury, which two months later led to a major surgery and a very long recovery period. Before the surgery, I made a decision to restructure what would become my recovery area to allow me to make music while I healed. The last thing I wanted was to sit in stillness for days and days with nothing to show for it. It was very tricky, and awkward, but I managed (with some help) to fashion a computer and music area around the couch, via a means to slide in and out while still keeping my leg elevated.
And, what track did I work on during that time? This one. Locked up in a full leg brace, in no small amount of pain, I donned the headphones and got lost in creation. This particular piece has no stylistic homage to it, but rather is a ground-up new genre with a completely original, lush, and complex soundscape. Frankly, it was hard to pull off, but I’m very pleased with the end product.
Enjoy. Like I said, this one’s been a very long time coming. The original request was made over 10 years ago, and the fulfillment brought back together some friends who hadn’t made music together in 15. It’s a new genre, a new fusion, a new way to think of a solo instrument performance, and if I daresay, a testament to making the best out of a tough situation. I hope that comes through when you listen to “Aurelia for Trombone.”