Even before the orated Greek myths, story-telling has been a part of the human experience. Universal truths imparted in ways that captivate serve to unite people like no other art form. While traditionally tales are thought of as primarily being word driven, many times they can come in the form of music.
“It actually goes beyond the human condition as well, obviously,” composer Eric Gould states. “Birds sing. Dogs do, too. I used to have a dog named Sam that would start singing at the first notes of Bach’s ‘Invention in F Major.’ He could name that tune in two notes, and away he would go! That lets you know that communication is happening. That’s what I’m always looking for: understanding.”
Next weekend famed musician and composer Gould will come to Wilmington. Though known for jazz, Gould never limits himself to a specific genre or style—two words that make the artist cringe at their constricting connotations. The Cavani String Quartet, who played a concert locally in February, and pianist Barbara McKenzie will premiere his new piano quintet entitled “The Fire Within.” His music will come alive Sunday, April 6th.
An innate part of Gould’s life, the notes contained on staff paper course through the Ohio native’s veins. Like a birth mark, he can’t recall a time when music wasn’t in his life in some form or another. Beginning his experimentation with wind instruments, his first attempts at creating harmonies was with a recorder when he was seven. This proved vital as it taught him the Boehm system of fingering and breathing control.
After mastering the recorder, Gould tried his hand with the clarinet and later the alto saxophone and flute. By the time Gould was 11, he was tapping his toes to “After Hours,” a jazz record by Philadelphia pianist Ray Bryant. At age 13, his family introduced a piano into Gould’s home.
“Once we got [a piano], I became hooked quickly,” Gould states. “The ability to employ harmony and counterpoint was fascinating for me. It didn’t take long for me to become solely interested in the piano.”
His father took him to a Duke Ellington concert, which proved greatly influential. Throughout his formative years, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock served as muses in the field of musical composition. He also soaked up the works of pianist Art Tatum. The innovations of artists like Igor Stravinsky and Miles Davis further left their mark on Gould.
At age 14, Gould composed his first song. “[I] had been improvising melodies before that,” Gould details. “I started out wanting to be like Stevie Wonder, and then I discovered Miles and was all over the place.”
After getting his first taste, there was no turning back. Gould went on to receive a master’s degree from Cleveland State University. The prolific composer also garnered expertise from private studies with Norman Dinerstein, Edwin London, Rudolph Bubalo, Andrius Kuprevicius, and Bain Murry.
Since, Gould has worked in electronic, orchestral,and chamber music, as well as performed solo and with jazz ensembles of various types. Narrowing down the pool of talents from which he can draw comes first when embarking on a new composition. Then he hones a specific concept and mounts the task of filling in the specifics.
“All of that happens before I write a single note of music—[that is,] if I do decide to write it down,” he explains. “I’ve employed a pretty wide array of creative processes over the years, and I’m comfortable with a lot of them at this point, so I don’t have just one process that I rely upon.”
Over the course of Gould’s career, he’s completed five CDs—each of which he considers a “labor of love.” His first CD was recorded between 1994 and 1995 and contained a number of tunes that Gould wrote in the early ‘80s. However, the album entitled, “On the Real,” wasn’t released until 1998. His second CD, aptly titled “Miles Away… Wayne in Heavy,” was a tribute to the works of Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter—Gould having had the pleasure of opening for one of Shorter’s concerts.
“My career has always involved a lot of hard work, and that has not changed,” Gould describes. “Hard work is both the requirement for and the result of any success in music.”
Gould’s music evolved over his next three recordings; however, with the collapse of the retail music industry he refrained from releasing new albums. With a plethora of aging music collections released, Gould intends to return to the studio in the near future to bring new compositions to life. He hopes to have a finished product by next spring.
Throughout next weekend, Gould will bring his talents to the Cape Fear area. On Thursday, April 3rd, he will attend a jazz studies lunch orientation at the Cape Fear Community College. That night he will hold an “informance” at St. Mark’s Parish Hall. On Friday afternoon, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., there will be an “Art of Listening” presentation held at UNCW with another “informance” occurring that evening. On Saturday Gould will showcase his work in Morehead City, before returning for his final performance on Sunday at Beckwith Recital Hall.
“I always look forward to sitting in the audience [and] hearing the first realization of a work,” Gould beams. “There’s nothing like the premiere. A lot of time and thought goes into those minutes, so you want to savor the experience.”
Eric Gould: Meet the Composer and Recital Performance of “The Fire Within”
Beckwith Recital Hall, UNCW
Sun., April 6th, 7:30 p.m.