PJCE co-founder and saxophonist Gus Slayton has also composed a new piece for tonight’s concert of music inspired by the Bonneville Dam. Let’s see what he has to say:
1. What is the title of your piece? What does it mean?
“The Year of 1934” is simply the year construction began on the Bonneville Dam. My piece aims to reflect four different forms of energy produced at this particular site during that year. First, there is harmony found in the tranquility of nature. Second is the chaos of highwater floods. Next, the construction of the Dam by teams of workers is reflected in double time songform with clearly defined jobs for all. Lastly, we are exposed to electricity and its immediate illumination.
2. What should the audience listen for when the band plays the piece?
I wrote a simple work song that workers may have hummed while hauling buckets of concrete and used the implied chords as the framework for the first and third sections.
Identify the four sections by changes in harmony, rhythm and texture. The first part is a light, consonant statement of the melody by piano with rhythm section impersonating a slow moving harmonious flow. Next, the water rises and begins to flood as various melodies flood the stage. Drums capitulate highwater floods and surging currents with unsteady rhythms. Third, we hear the main song of the workers in doubletime. Everyone works together for a common goal like many of the big bands of this era. Lastly, the Dam goes online and power flows. resistance is realized through tense meters, coarse harmony, and distortion.
3. The Bonneville Dam affects everyone in the Pacific Northwest in one way or another. But, do you have personal connection to the dam?
I like to sail boats on the Columbia and the area above the dam is very windy just about every day. The site is also at the end of the tidal reach.
4. Were there any aspects of the dam’s presence in Oregon to which you chose to capture in your composition? If so, how did this aspect of the dam translate into music for you? If not, please tell us why you avoided this approach.
I basically covered this in question 2, but I chose four jazz moods influenced by four forms of power associated with the site of the Bonneville Dam on the year construction began. Put simply, the calm river is an ECM style groove followed by a free and meterless flood. Next is an old time swing chart meant to keep the workers working and last is the rock section in odd meter with electric guitar solo.