Traveling Melodies

As I was interviewing Francesco Tristano a couple of days ago, after his show with The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, we quickly stumbled upon the subject of traveling and what it does to the creative process. If there is one thing most musicians across genres are strongly familiar with, that is traveling – from one gig to the next, from one project to another. Airplanes and trains are part of our day-to-day routine, and foreign places are in a sense normality – I guess many would agree with me that this is one of the most rewarding sides of being a professional musician. Mozart was probably one of the first ones to engage in this ongoing movement – traveling with his music, being a “man of the world” from a very young age. Without giving too much away from the interview with Tristano (coming soon!), I can tell you I asked him where he composes his music. “In trains” was one of his answers, which made me think a lot about the creative-qualities of traveling. Art works across disciplines and though-out history are a testimony to the existence of Muses who accompany the many routes a traveling artist takes upon.

“Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways,
who was driven far journeys”
 [Homer, The Odyssey]

Airplanes and trains, stations and airports – exist beyond places; “nowhere zones”, where one becomes no-one in particular, awaited only by a later reality. Suddenly there is time. Suddenly there is space. Far and unknown places stimulate the inspiration; long quiet hours of traveling almost forces a more concentrated, more focused state of mind.

“Journey” is a word of many meanings.

Here are few examples of works related to vehicles and terminals; traveling from the ground, to the seas and up in the sky – sounds of movement (a Sunday Mixtape will follow in a couple of weeks):

1988: reflecting upon his journeys in trains between New York and Los Angeles during World War ||, Steve Reich later realized that had he stayed in Europe during the war, other trains would have taken him to his death. This is the first recording of Different Trains, written for string quartet and tape, played by Kronos Quartet on their Grammy awarded CD from 1989.

1829-1842: Mendelsshon’s 3rd symphony was inspired by his walks with Karl Klingmann (a German diplomat and writer, who was a regular visitor at the residency of the Mendelssohn family, and a close friend to Felix Mendelssohn). The two explored Scotland by foot during Mendelssohn’s first visit to Britain in 1829.

1890: First sketches for Tchaikovsky’s string sextet were made during his visit to Florence, one of his favorite vacation destinations.

1978: Tape loops of different lengths, mixed together in layers are used here to achieve Brian Eno’s wish, to create music “as ignorable as it is interesting”Ambient 1: Music for Airports was intended to be played in airport terminals as a looped sound installation that would soothe the cold, anxious atmosphere in these spacious waiting halls. This is Eno’s sixth studio album, and the first album ever to be officially classified as “ambient music”.