This collection of "Squire Variations" was conceived as something like a modern analogue of Bach's Cello Suites. Over time, I have come to hear deeper musical parallels to the six movements of a Baroque suite and I have accentuated those aspects in these interpretations.
We begin with the strains of the last, quiet notes of "Safe (Canon Song)" from Chris Squire's solo album Fish Out of Water. These segue perfectly into one of the gentlest of Yes songs: "To Be Over" from the Relayer album (1974). In the free, almost improvisatory style of a prelude, I explore the contrapuntal interplay of Chris Squire's bass, Steve Howe's guitar, and Patrick Moraz's keyboards.
Oftentimes, Yes music is a study in contrasts. Here we are cast from the tranquil scene of floating down a calming stream to the stark death of a group of friends in a howling mountain blizzard. In addition to echoing a traditional allemande by including heavy arpeggiation, I decided to turn "South of the Sky" (from the 1971 release Fragile) inside out by starting with Rick Wakeman's interlude from the middle section and taking my time in getting around to the verse.
Distilling the four majestic movements of 1973's double LP Tales from Topographic Oceans ("The Revealing Science of God", "The Remembering", "The Ancient", and "Ritual") into a short suite for solo bass might seem like an impossible task. Yet there's a precedent: Steve Howe did it for guitar and voice on his 1994 album Not Necessarily Acoustic. Although I've chosen different themes from several of the movements, Howe's performance provided a great frame of reference as I translated this magnificent work to the electric bass.
As Chris Squire does on this haunting song from Going For The One (1977), I mostly follow the melody line. To emphasize the sense of lamentation in the original, I take the song at a slightly slower pace than Yes do, inspired by the slow sarabandes of Bach's Cello Suites.
This short song from The Yes Album (recorded in late 1970) is one of the hidden gems of Yes music. Although the words are serious, the music is easygoing and relaxed in the spirit of a minuet or bourée, even verging on jazz in Steve Howe's guitar solo toward the end of the song.
Although much Yes music is sublime, I hear absolute perfection in the four movements of the title track of their 1972 album Close to the Edge ("The Solid Time of Change", "Total Mass Retain", "I Get Up I Get Down", and "Seasons Of Man"). Attempting to represent some fraction of that grandeur on a single instrument, especially one as simple as the four-string bass, is a daunting task. I've done the best I can.
Thanks to Chris Squire for opening my mind to the possibilities of the bass guitar. His melodic, harmonically advanced, and deeply intelligent writing for the instrument will never be equalled.
Thanks to the other members of various Yes lineups — Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Alan White, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, Tony Kaye, and Patrick Moraz — for composing the music I've arranged here.
Thanks to Bill Martin for suggesting the idea of "Squire Variations" in his book Music of Yes: Structure and Vision in Progressive Rock (Open Court, 1996).
Thanks to Joe Veillette for creating the instrument I play: a four-string, 24-fret, short-scale Minotaur bass strung with D'Addario nylon tapewound strings.
Thanks to Mark Stefaniw for guiding me to the top of the mountain.
Peter Saint-Andre > Music > Yes