New "Album" - April 3, 2000

I recorded my first album in 1979. They were called "albums" then. Many of us who were around at that time are too old to remember, and for those of you who weren't alive in 1979, it may seem irrelevent. A little history lesson: Albums were black vinyl disks with a hole in the middle. They were played on what was called a "record player." You placed the disk on a round, spinning surface called a "turn table," fitting the hole over a small bullet in the middle. Adjacent to the turn table was an "arm" with a "needle" at the bottom end. You picked up the arm, moved it toward the disk, and laid it down so that the needle rested on the spinning record. The first sound that would come out of the speakers was the scratching of the needle on the turning disk: "kchhh...kchhh...kchhh..." And then magically, music would appear, rising above the scratching, circular heartbeat of the record player. 

Another very cool thing about albums is they had a feature known as "Side One," and "Side Two," whereby you were able to play one side of the disk, then turn it over and play different music on the other side ! With the advent of "technology," I graduated from albums to "cassettes," which many of you probably remember, and some of you may even own. They also borrowed the concept of Sides One and Two from their predecessors. After cassettes, I started recording "compact disks" (cd's--they only have one side) which brings us to the present, although I am told cd's will be obsolete soon--something to do with "downloading" music on "computers."

At any rate, since 1979, I have released eight solo albums, cassettes, or cd's. I have collaborated on a number of others. This averages out to approximately one release every two-and-a-half years, which feels about right because I regard each release as a marking of my musical and personal growth. Every two years or so, I can look back at where I have been and where I have gotten to, and I make my next benchmark. Every time I record a new "album," it feels like the most important thing in the world. I always think this will be my definitive statement, the one that will finally express exactly what I've been trying to say all these years, the one that will penetrate the heart of every man, woman, and child. Of course, by the time the new album is released, I'm pretty tired of it, but I'm really excited about this new music I'm writing! Just wait until they hear the next one !

I'm getting ready to record a new CD later this month, and the process is no different than before. This one is going to be the most incredible thing I've ever done! (Although, I've started writing some new music for the next cd after this one, and I think it might be even better.) My new cd, which is due to be released later this spring, will be called Songs From The Bay. It will include four guitar duets, and a cello/guitar suite, all of which I composed. The guitar duets are called Conversations. My aim is to have two intertwining guitar parts which interact, respond, and bounce off each other, much like a conversation. The cello and guitar suite is entitled Songs From The Bay. The Prelude features two guitars and cello, and it is followed by six pieces for one guitar and cello. In these pieces, I have tried to paint various pictures of the beautiful Oregon Coastal area surrounding the Alsea Bay, the area I happily call home. 

Most of the composing I have done to this point has been for solo guitar, with occasional accompanying instruments. This new music is my most ambitious attempt at writing for other instruments other than my own. I have learned a lot. In writing music, I have always tried to think like a musician, rather than a guitar player. I have made a point of avoiding convenient guitar tricks. Instead, I have attempted to conceive of the music first, then find a way to make it possible on the guitar. However, in writing for other instruments, I have been compelled to take this more musical, less guitaristic mindset to a new level. When I wrote the guitar Conversations, I needed to find a balance between the two instruments, so that they were both speaking and listening at the same time. In writing for the cello, I became aware of what a melodic instrument the cello is! It possesses a beautiful, singing voice which steps to the foreground and requires a melody. No extraneous notes will do, no fillers or fluff. The cello has required me to make every note imperative, because it stands out so naked and alone.

I am blessed with two extraordinary musicians and human beings to record this project with. I cannot emphasize how important it is for me to have a good personal relationship with those I play music with. For me, playing music is an intimate thing to do, one in which I am vulnerable. To play well, I need to play with people I like and trust, people who share my sense of fun and adventure, people who are able to listen and respond. I am working with two such people. I have worked with Doug Smith for more than five years in a four-man group called The Acoustic Guitar Summit. I have always admired his technical brilliance, his clean tone, and his musical taste. The first duet we played together was Doug's arrangement of Debussy's Claire de Lune. As we honed the piece, it was a revelation to discover the musical communication we shared. We listened so intently to each other that we had many wonderful moments when we intuitively knew where the other one was going, exactly how long we would stretch out a phrase, or how best to compliment each other. Maybe the best thing I can say about how Doug and I play together is that we really listen to each other. I also admire Doug's work ethic and the integrity he brings to his music. I knew that if he agreed to learn these complex guitar parts, he would give them total commitment, and that he would work with me to bring every nuance to life. He has. It's been a pleasure working with Doug, and I can't wait to get into the studio and record our Conversations.

When I was writing Songs From The Bay, I had a short list of one cellist whom I wanted. That was Hamilton Cheifetz. I met Hamilton in 1986, when I asked him to play a cello part for a piece I had written called, Sweet Sorrow. I was amazed at how beautifully and effortlessly he played the part. We spent a little time together then, and we seemed to get along well. I had not seen him since, but I knew he was incredibly busy. He heads the cello department at Portland State University, he plays and tours with The Floristan Trio, the Third Angle Ensemble, and in countless other formats. So, when I asked him to play this music with me, I was delighted that he not only said yes, but sounded genuinely enthusiastic about the project. My optimism was confirmed when he came to my house to rehearse for the first time. I played the guitar introduction to the opening piece of the suite, Mother Ocean, Father Sea, and as Hamilton delved into the first sustained notes, I thought, "Oh, boy! This is going to be good !" And it has been. Hamilton's cello fills me up. It is tremendously gratifying to hear notes that I have written played with such warmth and depth. We work easily together, exchanging musical ideas and suggestions. Plus, we laugh a lot. Hamilton has become my Number One source for new jokes via email.

So, I am really excited about recording Songs From The Bay. Maybe next month I'll write a column about how the recording session went. I can't wait for everybody to hear this music, because I think it will be my best stuff yet! And I don't think it will be another two-and-a-half years before my next cd, because I'm already on a roll composing music for it. (I think it's going to be the best thing I ever did!) 



Old School, by Paul Chasman and the "Great Gatleys"


Accompanied by Dan and Laurie Gatley on bass and vocals, Paul Chasman returns with 11 new original tunes that will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you think. With his trademark sparkling guitar at the forefront, Paul’s poetic lyrics contrast life and mortality; grief and celebration; and light that penetrates the dark.