08/12/2019 4:14:18 Samuel

I've been wondering about how you approach structure and form in your compositions and improvisations. How often do you plan a piece's global form from the outset, and when you do, what are your methods or strategies/what do you think about? Is there a common thread running through your approaches to chamber music like Nocturnes, through head/improv formats like in Trio Convulsant and through your free improvisations?

Or is the global form in your music often just an organic result of its smaller-scale structures? Maybe your approach has changed over time (e.g. earlier Bungle stuff sounds quite episodic, but pieces like Phlegmatics and Carry Stress sound quite carefully devised).


You are not incorrect in the design of those Bungle songs. And my general answer to you is that it depends. I’ve used both design and intuition. I like classic forms as well as trying to devise new ones. The trio-convulsant book is a deliberate attempt at a different form for each piece partially to avoid a head-solo-head redundancy. Sometimes I map out a form in advance. For example “The Empty Glass Has A Name” is essentially a passacaglia. Phegmatics was mapped out as a graph score before I started writing notes. I consider that more episodic. The Nocturnes have the continuity of melody, repeated sections, often some variation of A(A)BA, etc. I also have a hard time straying from a compositional mind-set when improvising. I like themes and circularity and variation.

Often I start with random, intuitive themes and those somehow inform the rest of the piece. They might dictate certain variations or contrarily stagnation. I do find form an aspect of music that is taken for granted and try to keep my own music fresh by focusing on it. I recently realized I don’t think I’ve ever written a song that starts with the chorus or uses only two chords, so I should explore that among other things.

Trevor Dunn