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All compositions by Andy Suzuki (Onymous Music/ASCAP) 2. Machine Language (8:13) Total time (56:17) Andy Suzuki – Tenor, Alto , Soprano Saxes, Flute
The Concept I wanted to combine my interest in composition and my fascination with numbers. The process began with the decision to only use prime numbers (I’ll explain what they are later). Each tune would represent a different prime number. I decided on the general shape of the CD very early on, where the up-tempo tunes should be, where things need to cool out with a ballad, etc. I chose to work with the numbers; 2,3,5,7,11,13, and 17, also being a prime number of songs total. I used these numbers as building blocks for many of the structures in my tunes, both in common and in some unexpected ways. The idea was to come up with a number-based structure to work from. With all the pegs in place the final step was to actually compose the individual pieces. In the past, I’ve written tunes one at a time and assembled them together for an album. This time I took a reverse approach, starting with the blueprints, constructing each structure based on the given prime number, and finally filling in the musical details, like interior decorating. The hardest part was keeping an eye on the big picture and trying to compose all seven tunes sort of at the same time.
About Prime Numbers All the numbers from one to infinity can be grouped into two categories; Prime and Composite. Before defining these let’s look at some numbers and their factors. 1=(1×1), 2=(2×1), 3=(3×1), 4=(4×1 and 2×2), 5=(5×1), 6=(6×1 and 3×2), 7=(7×1), 8=(8×1 and 4×2 and 2x2x2), 9=(9×1 and 3×3), 10=(10×1 and 5×2). 11=(11×1). Do you notice that some are only divisible by the original number and 1, while others can be represented in more than one way? About Composition Compositions can come about in many ways. When Let’s look at some of the aspects of music that can be counted.
Please note: I use the words ‘bars’ and ‘measures’ interchangeably. Melody You can count the number of: notes in a fragment of melody, notes in longer phrases, notes in the whole melody, the duration of individual notes, and most importantly, given some arbitrary starting point (say middle C) you could assign a number to any note based on which scale you start with. For example, (middle C = 0, C# = 1, D = 2, D# =3, etc.), so 5 would be equivalent to the note F. If a diatonic scale is used instead, C-major scale would be (C = 0, D = 1, E = 2, F = 3), so 5 would now be the note A. Harmony You can just as easily use numbers to form harmonic shapes. By the numerical scheme mentioned, you could now take every, say, 3rd-note of a chromatic-scale and end up with the group of notes (chord), C, E-flat, F-sharp, and A (a diminished chord-shape). Every 3rd note of a C-major-scale will run through all the notes of the scale once, C-E-G-B-D-F-A. Rhythm Numbers can be assigned to many aspects of rhythm. The number of beats per measure, the number of measures in a phrase, the number of times the phrase is repeated. Some of the tunes on this record use this ‘nested’ approach. Note durations, spaces between notes, note-groupings, just about every aspect of rhythm is countable. If you are getting to the point where you are counting the number of musicians in the band, or the number of letters in the title of the song, you should take a break.
Song Details 2. Machine Language: Two is the first and only even, prime number. Duality is a theme that has its roots in the distant philosophical past. With time, meditations on good/evil or being/non-being have been replaced with the modern mantras, on/off or 1/0. Computers use a system of numbers called, binary (base-2), unlike our everyday decimal system of base-10. Instead of using the digits 0 to 9, only the 0 and the 1 are used.
3. Good Things …: Come in 3’s, or was it three 3’s? Three is the lowest odd prime. I tried to nest as much three-ness at different levels as I could, and still retain the mood of an easy-going jazz-waltz. The main motific shape is a three-bar phrase, three beats per bar, sometimes repeating the whole thing three times. The three chords were chosen based on dividing an octave into three equal parts, which leaves an augmented triad (e.g. E-C-G#). This shape is used throughout the root movement, sometimes in reverse direction.
5. Four Fingers and a Thumb: Similar to the previous tune this uses 5’s throughout. In the intro there are three versions of 5; the drums are playing a pattern in 5/4, each bar is played a total of 10x’s (1×10), the bass line is, with slight variations on every 5th bar, a two measure pattern played 5x’s (2×5), and the keyboard comps a 5-bar phrase, 2x’s (5×2), all repeating itself every 10 bars.
7. Lady Luck: Drums start with 7-bars of 7/8. A series of II-V’s in harmonic phrases of 11/16, 3/16, 13/16, and finally two more bars of 11/16 for a total of 49/16, or 7-bars of 7/16. Then shift to 7/4 latin-feel, and 7/8 divided into 2+3+2. The rest of the arrangement alternates in one of these three meters; 7/4, 7/8, and 7/16.
11. One Broken: For this ballad I wanted the 11 to be subtle. This is very slow, in 4/4, so unless you have patience, you may not notice that the entire tune is a repetition of an 11-bar form. 11th-chords were used…but not harmed.
13. Triskaidekology: Ya, ya, ya, it’s the study-of-13. This absurd bebop-tune begins with 13-bars of drum solo. The form is AABA, the first A-section has an added 2 beats and the B-section is 13-bars (3+3+4+3). The last A-section has a II-V functioning as a pivot to
17. Tombstone: Probably the most obscure title reference. The great mathematician Gauss was so proud of a proof he had come up with in his youth that connected prime-numbers, with geometric-shapes that could be drawn using only a compass and straight-edge. He proved that heptadecagons (17-sided regular polygons) |
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# Prime – details

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