Fundamental Affirmation

2011-08-12

For several years now I've been working on a set of transcriptions for solo electric bass of songs by the progressive rock band Yes, provisionally entitled Fundamental Affirmation. In his book Music of Yes, Bill Martin calls such transcriptions "Squire Variations" in honor of Chris Squire, co-founder and longtime bassist of Yes. My take is perhaps not quite what Martin had in mind, because although Squire's bass lines feature prominently in my arrangements I also weave in the melodies and even at time the guitar and keyboard parts (to some extent as a way to do justice to the polycentric nature of the Yes music, which Martin himself stresses in his book).

Given my love for Yes, this has been a rewarding and enjoyable project. So far I've completed transcriptions of songs from four of the six albums in what Martin calls the "main sequence" of Yes music:

I long thought that I'd try to make an arrangement of "Heart of the Sunrise" from Fragile, but now I'm not so sure -- I've been working on that one lately and somehow the arrangement isn't coming together. Although I'll keep at the task for a while longer, I might abandon it in favor of the largest transcription of them all: "Close to the Edge", the title song of Yes's 1972 album and what I consider to be the perfection of their art. (For a while there I was toying with the idea of making a suite based on their 1973 release Tales from Topographic Oceans, but that was something like making a classical guitar transcription of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony!)

Speaking of classical guitar, somewhat crazily I'm crafting these arrangements on the bottom four strings of my nylon string guitar, since I don't currently own an electric bass. However, I have my eye on a somewhat exotic nylon string electric bass made by luthier Joe Veillette, because its sound really fits what I have in mind for this project. When I finally make some rough recordings, I'll be sure to post them online!


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