Patrick Moraz Interview
TIM MORSE: What have you been up to for the last five years?
After the release of WINDOWS OF TIME and prior to 1998, I composed hundreds of pieces of music for all instruments, as well as orchestras and choirs. Since 1998 I've been working almost exclusively on RESONANCE, my new piano CD which has just been released; E.S.P.--Etudes, Sonatas and Preludes--for Piano which has been recorded and is now ready for mastering; and A WAY TO FREEDOM, an electronic CD that has been a work in progress since 1997, but is now nearing the last stages of development. In addition to this I am currently producing a couple of artists that I have also written compositions for. As an official delegate to the Conference on World Affairs, I have attended two conferences so far and have given several concerts for the Conference.
People don't hear from you for awhile and they wonder what you've been up to, and in the meantime you've been doing all these things.
I've also been writing and researching some stories. I'd like to do a movie of THE STORY OF I either in 3-D computer graphics, an animated version, or the real thing. I have also written a couple of other movie scripts; one is a science fiction story and the other is about the life and times of a composer who lived three hundred years ago. Also, next year I would like to record a Christmas album. I have already composed a couple of pieces for that. It's the only seasonal project that I'm interested in doing and I would do it out of love, rather than commerce, the proceeds--after recording and production expenses--going to charity.
It's nice to have the right intention! With all of the music you've written how do you choose what you release?
It does become difficult to choose and select which pieces I will record and release. I have potential commissions for some of the symphonic pieces that I've written.
I'm glad to hear that, because when I hear your piano music I think that you should have commissions for orchestral works.
I wanted to establish a solid base with the piano music, first and foremost with the trilogy of albums: WINDOWS OF TIME, RESONANCE and E.S.P. E.S.P. is more classically influenced; it's going to surprise some listeners, because I've gone back to my very early classical influences. For example, I've composed one of the sonatas according to the rules of a Mozart sonata. I've always loved and adored that kind of music.
There is a beauty to that kind of structure.
I love Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, all of their music. I love early music like Vivaldi as well. I love all music from Chopin to Stravinsky to Sibelius. When I was in Yes, Jon had turned me on to the "Fifth Symphony" by Sibelius; that was so beautiful!
I wanted to talk a bit about the compositional process for RESONANCE. The complex counterpoint that opens the album in "Vortex of Life" - with an arrangement like that, do you hear it in your head first? Or do you have a melody and compose the individual lines to fit it?
In "Vortex of Life", I had previously recorded the third movement of that suite. Outside of a couple of loud clusters which are deliberate, I wanted the whole piece to be one note at a time. Very rapid with dynamics, that would really jump at your ears. I wasn't thinking about it being a movement in a suite when I did it but I was thinking about a seamless, flowing kind of piece and eventually the thing developed in my mind as I was playing it. The more I was doing it, the more I was thinking about this seamless flow to finish the piece. To make a dialectical antithesis to what came before, that's why I chose to finish it with that kind of hymnal and simple chords and to get away from the rapid succession of those single notes to the major key although 5/6th of the piece is in no key per se. That gave me the idea a few months later to go back to it and take some other roots and development of those roots to create what I called, eventually "Vortex of Life".
When I listen to the album I feel it is a great balance of contemporary jazz and classical, improvisation and structure, harmony and dissonance. All of these things are in a wonderful balance.
Thank you. I always have that in mind. I always have this kind of motto in my mind: "The epitome of creativity is the state of dynamic tension between extreme forces in opposition". Not only the state of dynamic tension, but also the state of dynamic balance. Maybe I've given this very fortunate way of expressing myself to my style and art. I really appreciate your comment, by the way because it means you've listened to it with a state of alertness. Even if only a few people do that, it means that my expression has reached them. It makes me very happy that one understands that and that's great!
Why is RESONANCE and WINDOWS OF TIME exactly one hour?
(Laughs) You know why? Because with WINDOWS OF TIME I wanted to bring 14 hours (of recorded material) down to one hour. Now I never planned to do that again, but with RESONANCE why not carry on the process? Once we had the material selected and balanced and so on and then let's add a little difficulty to the process.
There's the challenge!
Yeah, and see if I can make it sixty minutes, why not? To give the listener the same kind of time to perceive a different work, that's another aspect to it. I have to tell you that E.S.P. is going to be the same, length-wise! Then that will be it, because of course then it becomes a "process".
I wanted to tell you that one of my favorite tracks on the record is "Sundance". There's a joyfulness when you play that brings a smile to my face. I really love that kind of improvisation and I was wondering if when you are improvising over that ostinato, are you visualizing anything or do you empty your head and just go with the flow?
It's just a theme, a little melody over a couple of chords. I love changes, but I thought after "Vortex of Life" which could be complex for the listener--even for the progressive listener, because we are talking to an audience of progressive listeners who love complex musical ideas, that it would be a little "recreation".
It comes back to the idea of balance again.
And for me it was a good place to put that piece, because it just goes, it's happy.
But are your picturing anything in your head as you play?
Sometimes, of course I do. Not necessarily all the time though. Now if you ask me what I was picturing when I played that piece, I could imagine "Sundance" being played with percussionists from all over the world. What I did when I started the whole "World Music" movement in a way, back in the sixties and seventies. That kind of joy and communicating with the people, enveloped me.
I saw the last show of CHAT II in the bay area and you talked at that time about studying a few classical pieces and getting back to your roots a bit. Did this have any impact on the writing or performing of RESONANCE?
Not really. RESONANCE is a blend of different influences that I've always had, but developed further. However for E.S.P. I have prepared myself by studying and playing some Mozart and Beethoven sonatas. I've put that music in my soul and made it second nature and have even recorded those pieces. At some point I will make an album of my interpretation of those classical pieces.
With the title track "Resonance", there's such a beautiful melancholy running through it - I was wondering what inspired it?
When I first thought about it - which I'm very happy to say I improvised, played and recorded it in the first take - I was thinking about(jazz pianist) Keith Jarrett and how much he, amongst other pianists, has influenced my life as a musician. And in my mind, in my soul, in my heart when I sat down and played, I thought that's my homage to Keith Jarrett and that's what it is. He's such a wonderful musician, he's a giant. That piece is dedicated to Keith, absolutely. I do believe the spirit is there, the resonant part of what I would call "Telepathic Synchronicity"(c)--that's one of my personal inventions--with a Higher Power and the way we understand what we call God. I think I've been really inspired and that is what I've been fortunate enough to give.
It's funny, I wasn't going to mention this, because I didn't want you to think that I'm comparing you to other artists, but I heard a Jarrett vibe to the song, that feel was there to me.
Before we go any further, I have to say that I've been very, very fortunate, because I'm the only musician in the history of Rock and Roll to have been a member of both groups, Yes and the Moody Blues. It's a part of music history. Relatively speaking, I've spent as much energy, time and love with the guys in Yes as I did with the Moody Blues, although with the Moody Blues I was with them for more than 12 years. I was with Yes for two and a half years, and more than three major tours. Don't forget also that I was coming from another kind of a mini-dynasty in a way, because I was coming from Refugee.
Which was an extension of the Nice.
Great guys! Lee Jackson and Brian Davison, very good and dedicated musicians with whom I'd had a fantastic time. So in 1974 after our album and the tour supporting Refugee, Yes contacted me in the early part of August--I think it was between the 5th and 8th of August, 1974. I was just back from Geneva, finishing my 25th movie score, with my very good friend, Gérard Depardieu. So that Monday I came back to London and I got a call from Brian Lane, although I had already been somewhat in touch with Jon Anderson a few days or a week or so before, from Switzerland. Anyway, Brian Lane called to arrange for me to go to a rehearsal and I went to the rehearsal on a Wednesday, following that Monday. The rehearsal was in Rickmansworth, in a barn, that's where they were preparing for RELAYER and auditioning other keyboardists, like Vangelis. Quite a few keyboardists, actually. Anyway, I knew the call was not only for me to audition for them, but also to assist at one of their rehearsals and so we got acquainted and tuned-up and so on.
The quite a few chords of "Sound Chaser"!
I played a few bars on the electric piano, I played for a few minutes And they all came around. I felt immediately a vivid kind of energy coming towards to me. I'm very emotional and sensitive to everybody, to musicians, listeners and so on. I played for them for a few minutes and the rest is history. I do believe that a couple of licks I did over "Sound Chaser" that day stayed on the record and then we carried on.
What were your initial thoughts about that idea of joining the band?
That afternoon I was, if not electrified, somewhat shaken; at that very moment I didn't think I wanted to be in Yes. As much as I liked the music and so on, there were many reservations. I was doing film music and I was really getting into that, Refugee was doing well, but we had thought that we might split-up. I was doing my own music (a big consideration) and even though I speak seven languages, my English at the time was a little more difficult to filter. But in my conscience that turmoil was not easy to deal with. Of course Brian Lane had talked to me about playing in front of hundreds of thousands of people, selling millions of albums, having more instruments and roadies, traveling in private jets, etc. The next day I was practicing on my own, the phone rang; it was Brian Lane and he said, "You're in the band! We want you immediately, make yourself available at once." I said, "What about the guys in Refugee?" He told me not to worry, that he had already taken care of everything, that he'd made a new contract with the record company. So we came to an arrangement and he assured me he would take care of Brian and Lee, as I had asked him to do. But that whole decision didn't come easily for me and there was a lot of pressure. There was pressure from the press and I had to learn all this material--what is RELAYER, the seventh or eighth album?
TALES was the seventh, so RELAYER was the eighth.
Then technically it would be the ninth, because TALES is a double album. There was a lot of material to learn including whatever had been established for RELAYER, which was very complex music. There were also more keyboards, expand, expand, expand! This was all done in a very short space of time. There were quite a few interviews with the papers of the time, photo sessions, rehearsals and so on. Everybody was extremely helpful. I went with Jon to his house and we played music, we jammed and he explained a lot of the conceptualization of what was to become "Gates of Delirium". That was very helpful. Some of the arrangement of RELAYER wasn't quite completed, far from it, especially "Gates of Delirium". Jon had some of the themes, but nothing was written down. To all the pieces I added whatever was required: melodic lines, orchestral passages and colors, introductions like the front of "Sound Chaser". The guitar solo was written by Steve, who wanted to break away from the song and then there was the collage at the end which features the acceleration and deceleration - a very interesting thing that very few groups, or even orchestras do. I was always very fond of that. The latter part of "Sound Chaser" was developed by all of us. I played and wrote the front of the song and Chris came up with this riff that he loved so much. He would play it every night before going onstage. It was very much a collective work, although the song part was written probably by Jon and Steve.
Do you have some wild on the road experiences with the band that you'd like to share? I understand you have a story about yourself, Chris Squire and a Harrier jump jet.
Yes, that was much later. That was in June of '76 in Chicago in the midst of the tour. Chicago was a huge show, there were 85,000 people at the racetrack. Anyway Chris and I were sharing a suite in this tower and we were waiting for the transportation to the gig to arrive. What we didn't know was there was a big aerial meeting going on in Chicago. Suddenly I hear a loud racket, an unbelievable sound! We went to the window and what do we see, right before our eyes, maybe a hundred yards away, but a Harrier jump jet directly in front of us simply hovering there like a spaceship. I said to Chris, "Let's go, our limo's here!" It was unbelievable; the kind of vision one very rarely ever experiences. There were a lot great adventures with Yes on the road.
Let's talk a bit about your experience with GOING FOR THE ONE. What was your contribution to the writing and rehearsals for the album?
I was a member of the band and as such, was constantly touring and writing and then we made our solo albums. I was on FISH OUT OF WATER and I wrote the arrangement and orchestration and conducted the orchestra for [Steve Howe's] "Beginnings". In '76 we did quite a lot of rehearsals, even without Jon, because he was finishing OLIAS. We were not only rehearsing for the show, but trying out a lot of [new] material as well. Eventually we came to Montreux in October and ELP were there, they were supposed to be finished and out of Mountain Studio, but they were not! They kept us hanging around--with all respect, because I think Keith did an unbelievable Piano Concerto on WORKS, a very interesting album.
Was "Turn of The Century" another song you'd worked up with the band?
Absolutely, I think I even have some of my notes for that on manuscript paper somewhere, every note of it.
So how long was this period, about a month or so?
I was there until late November, early December .
Your tenure with Yes was a very important period in the band's history.
A very, very important period of Yes and I'm extremely proud of having been a part of that history.
What do you think of Yes' music today?
I like it. It's great music, it's happy. THE LADDER goes back to their original roots, but it has some new flavors as well. Jon's always melodic and his voice is very good, Chris and Alan as a rhythm section are unbeatable for that kind of rock and Steve always does interesting guitar work. They're quite fantastic, you know!
How do you feel about Igor Khoroshev's performances?
I've heard what he did on the HOUSE OF BLUES and it's very good. He's had a lot to learn and he's done a great job. I saw the band live two years ago in Tampa and I really enjoyed the show. I haven't seen them since that time. Did you see the Masterworks tour?
Yes, I did and it was one of the most enjoyable concerts I've been to in a long time. It was great hearing "Gates of Delirium" and "Ritual" again.
It's not easy to do that. Mind you, these days with the current technology, keyboards are much easier and are more stable and powerful. But I think the band puts out great energy. I was listening to YESSHOWS and of course I played on "Gates of Delirium" and "Ritual". On "Gates" there's That bass part that Chris plays [sings a portion from the battle section], that's amazing and intense. On the YESSHOWS version, there's a lot of bass in the mix, but it's good though. Maybe there's a bit too much in YESSHOWS, but not quite enough on the HOUSE OF BLUES.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Well, I'm going to be doing more music. Most probably I'll be taking on some big commissions, which I'm starting now; they're starting to come to me. Symphonic commissions for specific events, works of importance. But also, whenever I have the opportunity, I like to go around to places and play some music just for free, at hospitals and schools and so forth. I enjoy playing for elderly people, for children, for people who are sick. I'll just do it for the pleasure of performing and for that really good feeling you get when you know you've been able to help someone feel better if even for just a little while. I just keep it very low key. It's not that I don't want to invite anyone but it's not a rock thing, you know!
That's not the intent, it's not for a commercial purpose.
The music goes straight to the heart of people to touch them directly like the light that we all receive when we're born. We all receive the light in its purity and integrity as a waveform and that waveform translates into particles of light or sound or whatever. When we are being told we are all created equal, that's the equality that has to be understood--you receive the waveform of the light in its purity and integrity. All of us and then what we do with it, that's our growth and how we conduct our lives and so on.
That's a very beautiful way of expressing that idea.
There's as much beauty in simplicity as there is in any complexity of life, any digital complexity, there's as much beauty in analog simplicity. When I say analog, I'm talking about acoustic vibration and the light as a waveform. I chose the title RESONANCE for my new CD because I wanted to talk about the several levels of coming into that RESONANCE, which implies the notion of synchronicity, and simplicity, but in a telepathic way. it implies the notion of harmony and it implies the notion of receiving the light at the level of RESONANCE. When I wrote "The Light", which is so simple, it was completely improvised in one take, nothing has been touched; that's the way it is. Even the piece previous to that, called "Standing in the Light" which prepares the listener for the longest piece on the album ["The Light"], was with the intention and understanding that I did it and that's why I called it "The Light", because it's simple and it reaches a new "plateau". I kept it very simple, it's just two chords. It's in D major and then it goes to F# major and then I stay on that F# for the rest of the piece. I didn't want to explain this in the liner notes, either, because everybody has a different receivership and interpretation, but that's why I called it "The Light". If we can understand that, from any angle, at any level, everything comes from above, even if we are turned upside down, that's the way I understand it!
Let's wrap this up by talking a bit about the CHAT tours. On reflection how would you characterize the CHAT tours as an experience?
It was such a wonderful experience! And I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody, who has been a part of it either as a listener, helper, or promoter, it's been wonderful. I can't name anybody, because if I start naming well...
You'd be there for hours, there'd be hundreds of people.
I'm not ruling one person out of this experience. It is still a continuous source of joy. I enjoyed every concert so much. I was telling the people that I was really their instrument. The piano was my instrument, it was my tool, but I was the instrument of the collective consciousness, the collective soul there. They made me feel very good! Also to know those people, to shake their hands, sign autographs, to talk to them all and to make some wonderful new friends, it was great!
For more information about Patrick Moraz, including sound samples and ordering information for his latest CD, RESONANCE, visit his web site at www.patrickmoraz.com.