Veteran Vancouver-area composer, guitarist, pianist and music producer Jon Siddall from his website: “I write slow music. With my new album Belvedere I’ve returned to that approach. The music develops, but slowly, or maybe hardly at all.” Siddall’s music could also be tagged minimalist or experimental ambient, genres that Siddall has deep roots in: his teachers have included leading maverick composers James Tenney (York University, Toronto), Terry Riley and Lou Harrison (California).
Siddall plays four of the Belvedere tracks on electric guitar, electric bass, mandolin and electric piano. The fifth track, Hello Snowflake, is played on the gamelan degung of West Java, Indonesia performed by the eight musicians of Gamelan Si Pawit, Siddall’s Vancouver group.
Degung, a kind of tuned percussion ensemble, also features a solo suling (bamboo ring flute). In this score however, Siddall chose not to use the suling and kendang set (barrel hand drums), but rather adds two kacapis (plucked West Javanese zithers). The result: exclusively struck and plucked sounds which naturally decay each at its own rate, evoking a non-pulsed, unhurried, contemplative mood.
Siddall’s rock guitar background shines through in Bliss Curve and in the spacious Belvedere for electric guitar trio. Clementine Mandala, for vintage Fender Rhodes (electric piano), is constructed of a long ascending melody performed at different speeds, superimposed in various ways, a texture common also in gamelan music. The composer writes evocatively, “Belvedere – is a vista, a beautiful view [to leisurely contemplate]. This album … invites immersion into that space. It’s music for dreamers, music to dream with, music with which to awaken calm.”