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Salmon Ladder Variations

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Published on Mar 28, 2016

Salmon River Variations by Tobin Mueller, 4th movement of "Suite: Flow" for piano, is from Disc 2 of "Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller". A Thelonious Monk-meets-J.S. Bach homage, the piece combines Bebop and Baroque styles with imagery of salmon struggling up stream, leaping into rushing damn outlets and arduously hopping salmon ladders on their way to procreate and, ultimately, rest in peace.

The sense of urgency is highlighted by choosing notes slightly above or below normal target points, like the salmon jumping up a cascading ladder, against the discordant current. Using a modified blues progression, I set up short repeating sections, like steps, a metaphor for climbing, fortitude and discovery. As the improvised melody ascends then slips back, the hard-struck piano keys bring to mind the jumping, threadbare salmon. The lush chordal mid section is a pause in which the salmon reflects on the immortal drive toward procreation, the flow between meaning and death, wonder and birth.

This is a piece I would never have tackled without first going through the Bach gauntlet (that resulted in Disc 1 of "Flow"). It was hatched from the roe of logic and balance, like a newborn swimming toward structure amid the chaos.

For more information on this and other works on "Flow", see tobinmueller.com/flow

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