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"Stand this album in a row with the best samples of the famous Windham Hill Records."
Serge Kozlovsky

Break Into Blossom I feel hopeful, peaceful and powerful when I play this. Writing it helped me to heal.

In These Lonely Regions Suggested by a line from a poem by Pablo Neruda. A favorite uncle died while I was working on this piece. He’s become a part of it now.

Kerenyi Adapted from music I wrote for a play in 1981. The score won the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle award, but the play never went further, and the music disappeared with it. It’s thrilling to resurrect it and bring it to new light.

Half Empty Bare ideas limned on the piano. I spent many hours trying to “make more” of this piece, and then finally gave myself over to its desire for simplicity.

Nino and Me In a pnueumoniatic dream-state Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone were looking over my shoulder. Cinematic and certifiably romantic.

Ordinary Day A song from the musical play The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, co-written with Joy Gregory. In the play it’s a quiet moment, a song that might be overlooked. It’s a pleasure to get this chance to give the music a full hearing outside of the play.

The Blackbird Whistling Wallace Stevens’ “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” has long been a favorite poem. Just this year, this stanza started echoing, and shook a new melody out of me - A marvelous structure for improvisation.

Frank Grows Flowers Zappa was a big influence on my music. His writings about (and borrowings from) serious composers led me to Varése and Stravinsky and a whole world of music. His long solos, and some of his melodies (Peaches in Regalia) were the musical equivalent of glorious run-on sentences, angular yet hummable. This piece reminds me of the way Frank could spin a melody.

Bandon In the summer of 1964, when I was nearly 8 years old, I took a trip to visit my great aunt and uncle on their cranberry farm in Bandon, Oregon. That visit was much more playful than the music suggests, yet this is the music of the memory: Fishing for trout with a spool of thread and a bent pin; the swimming hole; driving a tractor; arguments over Elvis vs. Beatles with the local tomboy (in her room lined with posters of the King); picking blueberries; struggling to sit still while my Aunt Gunny (Gunhilde) painted a watercolor portrait of me.

For Wendy The first song I ever really wrote, for my girlfriend at the time. The original song was sprawling and unworkable, but, like the relationship, had beautiful things in it. Only in retrospect could I find the structure it deserves. Love to you, Wendy.

Imagine it Falling Intended as a jazz tune for improvisation, I discovered it didn’t need improvising. So I play it as written, clean and simple.

Down Moon At 17, I started piano lessons with a neighborhood classical teacher. I wanted to play Copland or Gershwin or Leon Russell, but that wasn’t his thing. He loved Chopin, and among the pieces he gave me was Chopin’s Prelude 15, the ‘raindrop’. I grew to love it. Elements of that prelude are in Down Moon.

Ockeghem’s Turn It’s like a plainchant, this tune, the way the melody flows and repeats in odd ways. Ockeghem is a 15th century composer whose name kept popping into my head while working on this piece.

Oak Sky A prime example of pneumonia’s benefits for a composer. No wasted energy, no virtuosity, just 2 chords and a simple melody to go over them. And a mood...

3 South Trail John and Kate Swackhamer lived at 3 South Trail, in an old hunting cabin hidden away in the hills beyond Berkeley. The first time I visited they served rabbit meat they’d raised and slaughtered (I was impressed). John was a professor of mine at UC Berkeley. Kate was an actress and an incredibly loving and welcoming person. One day, as I headed for the practice rooms in the music department, John grabbed me by the elbow, steered me into a room and sat me in front of a tape recorder. “Listen to this!” Piano music, old, new, classical, jazz, played for 20 minutes. The tape ended. He looked at me. “What’s the common thing here?” I had no clue. He jabbed his finger in the air, in a mixture of triumph and glee, “It’s all composers playing their own works!” Here I am, decades later, playing my own work on the piano. Bless you, John and Kate.

Red Bird Begun as the barest of ideas, just plinking notes that outlined a chord progression. But that chord progression yielded more and more ideas, more than I could play alone. It needed another voice. You’ll see what I mean when you hear it.

All compositions Mop Mop Music ASCAP © 2009 Gunnar Madsen except: Ordinary Day © 2003 Gunnar Madsen and Joy Gregory

Recording "Bandon"


"Madsen's compositions come to vivid life on Two Hands, avoiding classifications such as classical, pop or new age by transcending them all."
Wildy's World
 

updated: 7/15/14 12:43 PM