A while back I was thinking about how context affects content. – in musical terms, how the choice of instruments, voices, electronics, words, whatever, can influence the way you write. Beyond the technical matters (instrumental range, performance technique etc.) I was wondering about the broader notions – how ideas are mediated by the things used to express them. An idea leads to a sound which leads to other ideas and other sounds and on and on. Every new sound alters the context of all the previous sounds which changes the way you think about the next sound. A kind of feedback loop. I thought maybe I’d do something that directly addresses the feedback loop – write a series of linked things based on a single set of ideas; a piece in several movements in which the ensemble is modified with each movement. And, I thought it might be interesting to retain the original ensemble and add to it with each movement so that remnants of the previous movement contribute to the feedback loop.

So, first off string quartet – a fundamental, iconic ensemble, dripping with history, thoroughly familiar, yet still offering a world of possibilities. Each successive movement would add an instrument or two. In the last movement I'd add voice and thus language and a whole other level of potential meaning. This was a good fit as a part of the basic set of ideas was the relationship between narrative and sound – how language can operate as a musical materiel and sounds can take on some sort of narrative function. This was in addition to a variety of things about melodic/harmonic language, rhythmic/phrase interaction, timbre, etc.

I chose Canto for the overall title as the word has dual meanings. It can refer both to singing and to major divisions in a poetic work. Yet another part of the loop.

For Canto IV I was blessed to have the voice and collaboration of mezzo soprano Laila Salins. Over the course of 3 recording sessions we discovered things in Canto IV that I would never have come upon on my own. The combination of her brilliant performance and musical insights made things visible to me that would never have come to light otherwise. It would be a different piece without her.

Canto - 2005 - 2010

1. Canto I (toward red)                   

    string quartet 


2. Canto II (point, line, smudge)          

    piano quintet 


3. Canto III (in motion/at rest)            

    flute, clarinet, piano, string quartet  


4. Canto IV (the space between)     

    flute, clarinet, oboe, piano,           

    mezzo soprano, string quartet  



    Mezzo soprano – Laila Salins


    Or, just put your feet up, relax and

    listen to all four.

Everything was recorded in my studio.

The instruments are all samples from the

Garritan Personal Orchestra collection.

Laila, of course, is no sample.

All selections copyright 2010, Kevin Jones


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