Variations

2004-12-02

I've been listening a lot lately to two CDs of music by John Bayless: Bach Meets the Beatles and Bach on Abbey Road. If you like the music of both the Beatles and J.S. Bach, you'll love these recordings, since they consist of solo piano interpretations of Beatles melodies in the style of Bach. Sometimes Bayless keeps close to the melody, but in other pieces it can be hard to discern the connection to the original tune unless you pay careful attention. Plus he quotes from the vast literature of Bach solo piano works, which adds an extra layer of complexity and enjoyment for lovers of Bach's partitas, suites, variations, inventions, and such. Supposedly Bayless is quite adept at improvisation and if I recall correctly he improvised these recordings, but I find it hard to imagine that he simply sat down at the piano and cranked out such perfectly formed arrangements. But perhaps I'm just not that musically gifted.

Bayless's work is one examplar of what I am trying to accomplish with a set of interpretations of Yes tunes that I'm working on for solo electric bass. (No, I don't even own a bass -- I'm working out these pieces on the bottom four strings of my classical guitar, and will transfer them to bass once I buy one.) I think of these works-in-progress as Squire Variations, in honor of Yes bassist Chris Squire, although I'm not strictly keeping to the bass lines and often interpret the melody or guitar parts instead of the bass parts. Thankfully, Squire is the most melodic bassist in rock music and his lines often comprise a kind of counter-melody, so there are many fun and challenging possibilities here. So far I am fully satisfied with my arrangement of "To Be Over" (from Relayer), which is about 8 minutes long and quite contrapuntal. Right now I'm working mainly on "South Side of the Sky" (from Fragile), which I feel is getting close to finished, and "The Remembering" (from Tales from Topographic Oceans), which still needs to be augmented quite a bit with themes from later in the original piece (you can't really call it a song, since it clocks in at over 20 minutes!). I'm also planning to write arrangements of "Close to the Edge" and "Heart of the Sunrise" but I haven't worked on those much yet. Perhaps after the first of the year I'll finally start to record some of this music and put it up on my website (though I probably need to get permission first, unlike posting of my own music, which is all in the public domain). So stay tuned!


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