This week with a new feature for the music column, William Price King is interviewing American composer Mark Bradley. Please note that some videos are audio only.
About Mark Bradley
Mark Bradley, composer, was born in Lansing, MI (16/10/1957). He studied composition at the Eastman School of Music and before college years, studied music with family members and his extended family. He attended college while still in high school, studying theory, piano and composition. His father’s cousin, Harold Laudenslager, studied composition in post-war Paris with Arthur Honegger and Paul Hindemith, and at Yale with Quincy Porter. Laudenslager is the author of a treatise entitled “Introduction to the Twelve-tone Harmony” which describes the 350 combinations of two to twelve notes of a scale of twelve tones; thus adding a harmonic basis to the work previously done by Schoenberg. In decades of discussion about composition, Ruth Laudenslager (“Aunt Ruth”) taught Bradley Harold’s theory and work, which served as a basis for Bradley’s harmonic language.
There were many musicians with whom he was in contact in his youth and who had a great influence on his development. Yehudi Menuhin, Samuel Adler, Andrzej Panufnik, Vaclav Nelhybel, William Walton and Joan Sutherland all had a great influence in guiding his studies.
Bradley’s compositions have been played in concert in Canada, the United States and Europe.
Welcome to the music column Mark and perhaps you can tell us about your introduction to music and where you studied?
I studied piano and composition with my mother (age 5-14), studied violin starting at 13, and attended college early (age 15-18 Lansing Community College) studying theory, piano, composition. After high school, attended Eastman School of Music, Yehudi Menuhin Music Academy, and Michigan State University for my aggregate Undergraduate music/liberal arts degree.
Who were the musicians who inspired you?
As a small child, I was most inspired by Beethoven and Brahms. As a pre-teen and teenager, Stravinsky, Bartok and Ives. In college years, Barber and Copeland (both were still alive at that point). In post college years, Ravel, Britten, Schoenberg and Webern and many others.
I love Schumann, he and Debussy are by far my favorite composers. The lieder “Ich bin ein lustiger Geselle,” from “Der Knabe mit dem Wunderhorn” (The Lad with the Wonder Horn) Op.30/1, was originally written for voice and piano. You did a wonderful arrangement of this lieder which is remarkably performed by Richard Lalli, Jim Ross, and Sara Laimon.
Were you nervous about purposefully changing some parts of the original piano score to accommodate the horn part that you created yourself? Did you consider the possibility that purists might be unhappy with this? Or, do composers today feel that they can modify the masters’ works, in the pursuit of a personal arrangement, as is done in literature and classic theater?
(William – sorry if this part sounds like a sermon..but I feel strongly about creativity and the way the classical work tends to discourage anyone from going out of the box. I wish classical was more like jazz…).
I don’t know if other composers feel they can/should be able to modify past composers’ works these days. No, I wasn’t nervous. But almost 30 years ago, modification wasn’t ‘allowed’ or thought to be a good idea. It was basically forbidden, unless one decided to change everything, then put just their own name on it.
When I was young, when someone told me I ‘shouldn’t’ do something musically – the idea became much more attractive! In past years, there was a negative reaction to my working with Schumann’s music, but only by musicians. Do we really need a Trio made up of plotting various discontinuous notes on a page stolen from a piano score? This could only result in a worse form of the original and have nothing to do with Schumann at all.
I don’t think one piece by Schumann can be turned into another piece by Schumann if it changes form. Schumann’s work is still available just the way it was available before. Schumann is a soul and a mind. Schumann music is its own being. Lieder and Trio are two different things.
Every time a piece is performed it is an arrangement. The only Urtext version of anything is on the page, and we can’t hear that. Music performers create an arrangement. In jazz and pop music, this is understood – but classical is a little strange. Folks fighting about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. What’s the use in that?
The artistic message of the Schumann Trio is the encouragement of ongoing creation. For those who are brave enough to do it, look at Schumann scores (or any scores by past composers) with new eyes and allow the mind to show you things you’ve never seen before. Run with the ball and create something new.
Does spirituality play a role in your way of composing? Some composers feel that they are guided by a divine force (whatever that is). Do you?
Yes. We (soul and mind) are energy and are always conscious.
Unconsciousness is impossible. Death does not exist for the soul, and stasis does not exist for musical creation. Minds are linked together. We never do anything alone. Being a solo act is an illusion. Creation continues.
What do you appreciate in the world of “art” today and who are the artists that you admire, if any?
I appreciate many many artists and musicians! When I was able to walk, I loved going to art museums. I loved modern art as much as great artists work from the past. I love listening to the video and audio clips on operamusica.com! Have recently listened to, and greatly enjoyed Eric Artz, Barbara Hannigan, Laurianne Cornielle, Paul Gaugler. There are many contemporary musicians that I love.
What would you like to explore in the future?
I am hoping with the help of my friends to be able to finish editing more old scores. What did music teach you?
Music taught me to be open to change. What has music taught you?
Music taught me that minds are linked, that music is a joint venture. Strictly individual participation is impossible.
What do you believe were the defining moments in your career that have brought you to where you are today?
In school years – Sam Adler / Eastman School of Music. One day we were going over one of my scores. Sam walked over to the piano and played middle C. “What’s that?” he said. “Oh, that’s just middle C” I said, a little confused. “That’s not just middle C” he said, and by the way, he continued “My response was the same as yours when Copeland gave me the same lesson years ago.” That lesson has stayed with me all my life.
I don’t think I have any defining moments in my career yet – probably in the years after school.
I think you said that “Souvenirs de Bienne “ was inspired by French writing in the early 20th century. This period is considered as “La Belle Epoque.” Who were the writers and/or composers who inspired you and why?
Ravel and Debussy – because I can feel France, and the profound gentle sensitivity there that I love so much. Ravel especially because he takes me to another world that I can’t describe with words.
Ives – Individualism. The inspiration to stick to my ideas, and never to give up.
Bartok – harmonic invention.
Britten – inspiration regarding the synthesis and polishing of ideas. A great example of how to put it all together.
Schoenberg – harmonic structure, sense of humor in music, broad view of music. The next step after Wagner. How romanticism extended to chromatism and 12-tone writing.
Copeland – his “American sound”.
Do you plan your compositions? If so, how?
No😊 Most compositions came about because of a request or commission from someone. In general; that person would say what he/she wanted, which would include musical style. As for form – that would come about as a response to the words (if a song), or as a result of the libretto, or as a response to the compositional material. The music writes itself – I just go for the ride, but I have to show up and work hard.
Has the way you compose changed over time?
Yes. When I was younger, while working and going to school, I didn’t generally have enough time to get a composition completely finished. There was always a deadline of a performance. I would sketch something out, complete as much as possible, then just throw notes at about half the score just to get it submitted. Although pieces weren’t finished, they managed to get performed anyway – I was always surprised about this. Not at all surprised if I didn’t hear anything back.
What advice, if any, would you give to young musicians interested in composing today?
Write for yourself. Make yourself happy. Write a lot. When you think you have something good, put it away for a while and look again in a few weeks. Use your intuition. Try not to judge yourself, or what you’re writing. If you find yourself getting negative about something you’re working on; stop and do dishes or walk around the block. Analyze what you’ve written to see how it works or doesn’t.
To finish another of Mark Bradley’s compositions.
“Performed/recorded by pianist Casey Robards Souvenirs de Bienne – In the summer of 1991, Jim Ross took me to meet Violette Bangerter at her home in Bienne, Switzerland. During the week or so we were there, Violette celebrated her 70th birthday party with dozens of well-known musicians who came to play a massive concert which was held in a beautiful church overlooking the lake in Bienne. I don’t remember whether Jim suggested I write a birthday present for Violette, of whether I got the idea myself. There are four movements to the little piece: Looking at Bienne from Magglingen, Violette, Jacqueline and Loukoum. The piece is short – about five and a half minutes.”
Connect to Mark Bradley
Opera Musica: https://www.operamusica.com/artist/mark-bradley/#biography
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQMxBvKVw_HOVj0GLI63uDg
About William Price King
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.
In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.
William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION – https://williampriceking.tumblr.com
Connect with William
Website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – https://twitter.com/wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-music-column/
Thank you for dropping in and hope you will tune in again next week for another post in the series Jazz instrumentalists.