On the Cycle by Chris Jentsch (liner notes to Cycles Suite)
Inasmuch as it combined arrangements of songs and improvisatory material from my first few years in NYC, Brooklyn Suite was a summary of what my life sounded like then. Cycles Suite pulls together a group of themes from my current range of material as it is intended as a meditation on one’s own life cycle and the important connections with the cycles of others. In particular, it is the fragility of this process that has guided my recent thinking. Cycles… is the third suite of a trilogy that was set in motion ten years ago.
Using similar material in slightly different ways, “Arrival” and “Departure” serve as introductory and concluding bookends for the composition in the manner of an overture and epilogue respectively. If you were interested in a cinematic representation of a concept similar to the latter, one good example would be the Richard Gere character swimming off in the underwater darkness during the last scene of Intersection.
“Cycle of Life” takes an abstract, non-specific view of birth and death and the part they play in the cycle. The basic rumba-like tune for the movement was inspired by the third act prelude of Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde.
“Home and Away” attempts to encapsulate all the potential of youth, invoking the sunny vistas of productive years ahead with some indication of unknown future hardships. When originally fashioned in its basic form, this song was dedicated to our drummer, John Mettam, and for a long while I had indeed imagined it in a large ensemble context as a feature for Mike Kaupa.
“Old Folks Song” is a lyrical waltz with disturbing interjections meant to represent wisdom weighed against the mental infirmities of aging from a younger generation’s perspective. “Route 666” returns to the nonfigurative approach of “Cycle of Life” through the use of an upbeat and edgy altered blues in six as a metaphor for negotiating difficult or challenging roads.
Lastly, the movements are imbued and interspersed with The Void, the quiet, free-ish sections intended variously to represent pre-birth, dream states, hallucinations, inebriation, after death, John Ciardi’s concept of pure time, and the state of no-mind associated with Zen Buddhism.
Mike Kaupa and I have been playing together in various contexts since 1991. He has always expressed and demonstrated a personal affinity for my compositions and it has been a pleasure designing this work around his unique voice.
I very much appreciate that most of the band members on this disc are by now Group Large veterans, and it is a point of personal gratification that they choose to continue to participate. Having made this extended focus on music for the large ensemble, I’m way overdue to release a small group record. The plan is to release Fractured Pop for Jentsch Group Quartet sometime in the spring of 2010.
Chris Jentsch ( February 2008)
Cycles Suite was commissioned by the Individual Artists Program of the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, was made possible in part through the sponsorship of The Field, and was partially developed during a residency at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.