|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.|
The Numinosum Blog
Now you might not suspect it, but when I was younger I was the lead guitarist of a short lived synth-pop-rock band (think Rush meets Tangerine Dream). Actually I wasn't very good, as I only started learning the guitar just before starting the band (for you guitar-heads, I had a black Yamaha (Pacifica?) with a small Fender amp). But I became good enough that I was able to use the guitar to play and compose a number of songs (some of which, I'll transform into a Numinous opus one of these days). Anyway back in those days I was listening to rock guitarists for inspiration: Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson, Steve Howe, Prince and later moved to people like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. Sure I heard (and liked some) other guitarists like George Benson, Lee Ritenour and Al Di Meola (surprisingly knowing me now, Pat Metheny not to mention Grant Green and Wes Montgomery, came much later). So back then my conception of the guitar's usage was much more rock based.
It probably wasn't until years later, after moving to Seattle, that my compositional concept of the guitar changed. When I joined the Seattle Young Composers Collective (now called the Degenerate Art Ensemble) as a player/composer, I was inspired by the guitarists in the group who often, it seemed to me, to write the most interesting music and whose usage of the guitar was so intriguing. Sure they used the guitar to create power chords and screaming lines, but also they used the guitar to create subtle colors, weird effects, or melodic lines with other instruments in the ensemble. Seeing and hearing this as part of the ensemble was a revelation in my thoughts of what a guitar can do and lead me to explore it when I moved to NYC.
For Vipassana, I wanted guitars because they can offer all of those things above. There are some places in the music where the guitars are used for their chordal ability, but mostly the guitars are playing melodic figures. And a guitar solo gliding over gentle waves created by a two piano figure and long, languid sustained pitches heard in the voices, was always one of the features I envisioned as I was composing "Of Climbing Heaven and Gazing on the Earth". And ever since Vipassana's second performance, including on our recording, the person doing those beautiful guitar solos has been Amanda Monaco.
So I asked Amanda a few questions about her experiences with guitar and with Vipassana.
How did you come to playing the guitar?
My dad played guitar, so I wanted to be like him and play guitar too. He had a band in high school with three of his six brothers, and used to tell me stories about the gigs my grandmother would book for them.
What challenges does Vipassana pose for you as a guitarist? what is it like being in a guitar 'section'?
I love being in a guitar ‘section’! Guitar is such a social instrument to begin with, so the more, the better, and when the parts intertwine the way they do in Vipassana, it’s a great time. This is also where the biggest challenge of Vipassana lies, because all of the individual lines sound effortless but in fact are quite intricate and one wrong note can lead to big trouble.
What do you like about Vipassana?
Vipassana is incredibly moving; I always feel like I’m on a journey whenever we play it.
What do you find beautiful (or where do you find beauty)?
I usually notice beauty when I’m not looking for it; I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll see some flowers tucked away in a tiny front yard, or a little cat sitting in the window, curious about the sidewalk happenings.
Who are your musician heroes?
There are so many, but my top four: Ted Dunbar, Jim Hall, Eddie Van Halen (circa 1981), Wes Montgomery.
If you could be flying over any place in the world, where would it be? why?
My favorite place to fly over is Central Park. Being a runner, and having spent so much time there, it’s one of those places that is very dear to me.
What is a book(s) that have inspired you?
One book is John Coltrane by Lewis Porter. It’s inspiring when you read about how hard he worked, and the beauty that came from his hard work.
What was the last time you've had that numinous feeling about something?
I was sitting on a dock by the East River, watching the sunset, looking at its rays resting on the water, with the breeze blowing through the grass and trees. The world felt eternal and majestic, very peaceful.
Tell us something fun or interesting about you that most people wouldn't know or suspect?
I love doing counted-cross stitch. When I was a kid, I used to make these huge pictures of flowers, “home sweet home” samplers, etc. and now I make little pictures for friends when I get the chance.
What's next up for you in your own music career?
I’m writing music for a new CD that I will record soon with my quartet (aka Deathblow: Michaël Attias, alto and baritone saxophones; Sean Conly, bass; Satoshi Takeishi, drums). I’ve also started a non-profit organization called the Long Island City Jazz Alliance (http://www.licja.org) whose mission is to bring jazz to the neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens, through concerts and workshops. There’s also a CD of music I recorded of original music inspired by texts from the Pirke Avot, a collection of rabbinic teachings compiled in the third century C.E., that I’m hoping to release in the next year. It features Ayelet Rose Gottlieb (vocals), Daphna Mor (recorders, ney), Sean Conly (bass), and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion).
You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandamonaco.com.
Numinous performs Vipassana
Wednesday September 22nd, 2010 8 PM to 9 PM
227 4th Avenue
Take the M, R Train to Union Street
Learn more about Vipassana by reading the other installments of the Inside Vipassana series:
Inside Vipassana #11: Vipassana Reborn (recap of the 2009 Inside Vipassana series)
Inside Vipassana #12: Bang a Gong with Jared Soldiviero (Numinous percussionist speaks about Vipassana)
Inside Vipassana #13: Ever changing stillness (behind the melodies of Stillness Flows Ever Changing)
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 9:50 AM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.