Tag Archives: Lawson

Masters Thesis Project

Last May I completed my Masters Degree in Composition from Mills College in Oakland. Since I received several requests from people to share my thesis project I have attached it below. Because a large portion of my studies at Mills were consumed by developing my very first solo pieces, I chose to center my thesis project around a through-composed study I wrote for solo alto saxophone entitled “Lawson Solo.” The title of my thesis paper is “Preliminary Issues of Time and Timing in the Context of the Lawson Solo Saxophone Project.”

From the introduction: “The focus of this thesis will be on the preliminary development of a concept of timing and time within the context of the Lawson Solo Project: a sonic vocabulary for solo saxophone that is intended to utilize melodic contour as a means to effectively convey the perception or feeling of imagined abstract visual structures and space.

Jacob Zimmerman Masters Thesis (final complete version)

I uploaded three different recordings of live performances of “Lawson Solo” here: Lawson Solo Performance Recordings

I would like to give special thanks to James Fei, Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Frith, Gust Burns, and John Butcher for their help and support with this project.

For more info on other “Lawson-related” projects see these previous blog posts:

Introducing the Lawson Ensemble

Lawson Trail Loops String Quartet (excerpts)

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Lawson Trail Loops String Quartet (excerpts)

In February I had the opportunity to participate in a reading/recording session at Mills College with the Eclipse String Quartet. This was my first time composing for string quartet and felt that my piece turned out really well. The Eclipse not only rehearsed the piece in advance, but also conducted an open rehearsal in Roscoe Mitchell’s Composition Seminar, and then recorded it the next day.

Please take a listen here.

Here’s the score: Lawson Trail Loops String Quartet

This recording is comprised of sections 1, 7, and 11-14 of what will eventually be a much larger piece. The piece is intended to outline a slow, gradual progression through the following musical aspects:

large registral space –> small registral space

vibrato –> no vibrato

rhythmic complexity –> drone

highly varied dynamics –> static dynamics

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Introducing the Lawson ensemble

Lawson is a name that I have used to represent a diverse body of work and activities that I have engaged myself with over the last year and a half. The prime unifying element of all Lawson-based projects is the use of a specific system of pitch networks. Other Lawson projects include a duo with guitarist Jameson Swanagon, a series of pieces for solo saxophone, as well as a large ensemble (currently an octet) of electronic and acoustic sustaining instruments. The topic of this post will be on the recent developments of the large ensemble.

LawsonEnsembleatLuggage Store

4.22.10 at the Luggage Store (taken by Michael Zelner)

Current members of the group include: Jacob Zimmerman (alto sax), Drew Ceccato (tenor sax, clarinet, flute), Matt Nelson (tenor sax), Cory Wright (bari sax), Rob Ewing (trombone), Michael Coleman (keyboard), Dan VanHassel (keyboard), Dan Good (electronics, trumpet)

Here are some recordings from our performance at the Uptown on April 13th, opening for the Oakland Active Orchestra:

Trail Loops Improvisation

32d (Counterpoint Study)

Contour Improvisation

The newly formed “Lawson” ensemble performs original music inspired by the rich cultural heritage of the Lawsonite people. In performance the ensemble collectively improvises varying textures of complex, slowly shifting counterpoint.  Through the use of pre-composed material, improvisation, and a specific vocabulary of conducting cues the performers actively engage in the discovery of new formations of melody and phrasing, with an emphasis on shapes and contours.  Notable influences for the project include Karlheinz Stockhausen’s opera music, Bill Frisell, Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton, and the improvisations of Lee Konitz and the “Tristano School.”

Notes on Lawson:

The contemporary people of Lawson are the descendants of an ancient civilization. For many generations the ancient Lawsonites lived at sea in ships, traveling and exploring the seemingly endless reaches of the ocean. They are believed to have had an acute instinctual awareness of direction, and never laid anchor anywhere, constantly sailing or drifting and only coming to land for supplies and repairs. The Lawsonites lived in tribes, each characterized by unique methods of shipbuilding and navigation techniques. Despite these distinctions, different tribes were thought to be friendly with each other, and would often travel together, although they would never follow the exact same routes.

After many ages of life at sea the Lawsonites suddenly decided to abandon their ships and leave the ocean. After traveling a great distance east over the Stawnee Mountain Range they came to inhabit their current location. While it has been forgotten exactly why the Lawsonites left, many believe a large oceanic storm decimated the majority of the population, and the few remaining people chose to leave the ocean forever. The descendants of these people have never seen the ocean.

Just like their ancestors, the modern-day Lawsonites continually move throughout the Northern region, only stopping out of necessity. The routes of the various Lawson tribes overlap, generally occupying the same territory, but each tribe has its own unique system of trails known only to that particular group. Some tribes prefer higher altitudes, while others favor terrain near sea level. Still, different tribes continue to travel together on occasion, in part as a celebration of the diversity of trails that the Lawsonites have created. The purpose of their constant movement is not to discover new regions or lands, but rather to find new ways of moving through the same region.

The Lawsonites have great reverence for their ancestors. Each tribe is known for its unique songs that are believed to date back to when their ancestors lived at sea. Some are curious as to whether or not there are still some tribes living at sea today. But they will most likely never know, as it is not in the nature of the Lawsonites to leave a region unless it is an issue of survival.

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