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Salmon Ladder Variations



 Genre: Piano

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"Salmon Ladder Variations" is the fourth movement of my "Suite: Flow," the first of two suites that makes up Disc 2 of my latest album, FLOW: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller. This movement takes the rolling key style of the first and second movements and gives it a modal jazz vibe. (The fifth movement gives it a bebop vibe, which is just as fun... which I plan on sharing next...)

Merging the influences of Monk and Bach, Salmon Ladder Variations creates a sense of urgency by choosing notes slightly above or below normal target points, like a salmon struggling up a cascading ladder, against the discordant current. Using a modified blues progression, I set up short repeating sections, like steps, a metaphor for climbing, fortitude and discovery. As the improvised melody ascends then slips back, the hard-struck piano keys bring to mind the jumping, threadbare salmon. The lush chordal mid section is a pause in which the salmon reflects on the immortal drive toward procreation, the flow between meaning and death, wonder and birth. This is a piece I would never have tackled without first going through the Bach gauntlet. It was hatched from the roe of logic and balance, like a newborn swimming toward structure amid the chaos.

I've had the honor of experiencing a salmon run up close, in the real word. Not up an actual salmon ladder aside a dam, but rushing upstream, in the wild, as I stood beside a narrowing stream. All these almost dead thread-bare creatures pushing themselves to their limit. Mind-blowing. I could only stand in awe.

Disc 2 of "Flow" is supposed to be original music directly affected by my work during the past year with Bach. Yet, to be truthful, the pieces are more influenced by composer-pianists like Keith Jarrett, Thelonious Monk and Fred Hersch. This one has more Monk in it. I wrote it more as a Bach-vaccine than a Bach homage :-)

Other tracks from this album shared on Macjams:

Here are tracks from "Suite: Flow":
Momentary Undertow (second movement)
Salmon Ladder Variations (fourth movement)

Plus: from "The New England Suite":
River Ice (Winter)
Lighthouse (Spring)

And from Disc 1, Tobin plays Bach:
Reinvention #13

If you haven't yet, please check out the review of "Flow" at Fanfare Magazine's "Not-to-be-missed 2015 Want List", favorite 2015 albums chosen by it's in-house music critics.

Also, if you'd like to read more (and listen to more) from this album:
Tobin's "Flow" project page on Tobin's website
"Flow" on CDBaby (where you can buy the CD Box Set
"Flow" is also on iTunes. Simply search "Tobin Mueller" via iTunes, or google "Tobin Mueller music"
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Song Stats
Hits: 1785
Comments: 8
Fans: 7
Plays: 51
Downloads: 18
Votes: 0
Uploaded: Oct 09, 2015 - 01:19:32 PM
Last Updated: Oct 22, 2015 - 08:38:31 AM Last Played: Apr 28, 2019 - 10:17:02 AM
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Dadai.2 said 1466 days ago (October 9th, 2015)
a BachMonk...
... composition as those fish seek ever to climb the keyboard. A tough life, but fish gotta swim and Tobin gotta riff a theme on his piano. Lovely. Enjoyed this.
Check out my latest song called Into The Down...
TobinMueller said 1465 days ago (October 10th, 2015)
Fish gotta swim
One of the first songs I played (accompanying on the piano) with my jazz singing mother (when I was a teenager) was Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man (Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly...). One of my mother's favorites. A great memory, sitting at the piano with her...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
KCsGROOVE said 1466 days ago (October 9th, 2015)
Intrigued by your description of the song and how you deveveloped the idea
really good stuff
very much enjoyed!
Check out my latest song called ALLEYCAT
TobinMueller said 1465 days ago (October 10th, 2015)
Salmon is my favorite thing to grill. I can still recall the first time I had salmon grilled... While visiting relatives in Oregon, after a salmon fishing trip, we gathered Elderberry tree branches, placed them over wood chip coals, and grilled them over smoke and flame. I use a Webber charcoal grill in my backyard, wear a gas mask (due to lung protection issues), and wear a straw hat I bought in New Orleans. And drink tequila and lime. Best in Autumn, for sure...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Philip18 said 1465 days ago (October 10th, 2015)
Salmon ladder
I certainly get the Monk influence and I can picture the scene you've described as this is playing. Impressive composition and performance, Tobin.
Check out my latest song called Refuge
TobinMueller said 1465 days ago (October 10th, 2015)
Theloneous Monk is one of those artists I discovered later in life (my early 40s). I knew his compositions from hearing others do covers and admired his writing style. But it wasn't until I saw vintage footage of him playing that I was truly awestruck. Since, I've scoured YouTube etc to try and understand what he is doing at the piano. His technique was absolutely unique, the way he held his elbows, wrist angles, and fingerings. Mind-blowing guy who, if life in those days would have been different, might have produced 10x more material. Can't say enough good things about him.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
PeterB7858 said 1464 days ago (October 11th, 2015)
Salmon Ladder Variations
Creative and evocative, Tobin. The stop/start/rush works so well. Elemental. Thanks.
Check out my latest song called The Parting Of The Ways
TobinMueller said 1462 days ago (October 13th, 2015)
Nice descriptor. Thanks. The piece, in a way, almost seems like a "little ditty", like a Monk etude, but I like how it fits into the 6-piece Suite and adds to all the others. Took me an entire day just to work out every note in that chordal section 2/3s of the way through. (Had to play it over and over a thousand times.) It's astounding how much I need to play around, sometimes, to find something I enjoy playing, that I'm able to preform, that thrills me in some way and doesn't bore or make me feel like I'm repeating something I've done before. This one fits the bill, even though it not be as good a stand alone piece as many of the others on the CD. Sometimes those 3 minute quickies can take the longest to come up with.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Artist Info
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Name: Tobin Mueller
Location: Rowayton CT USA
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I am a professional musician, composer, playwright and director. I've led a charmed life. I'm married to fellow MJer Suzanne and MJer Twonicus is my son, who currently sings and writes for rock bands in the NYC, D.C. and Cleveland areas. My second s... [see more]

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