Alex Levine | Towards the Center
The body of work represented on “Towards The Center” was first developed during my time at the University of Michigan School of Music. The earliest composition on the album, “Ritual Dance”, was inspired in part by contemplative practices introduced to me by Professor Martha Travers. “Ritual Dance” refers not only to physical movement, but also the merging of individual minds into a group consciousness. Creating, practicing, and performing music is a ritual that transforms and transcends boundaries between individuals, musicians and listeners. “Towards The Center” is a process by which each musician, and listener alike, relates to the mysterious gravity that exists at the center of a group interaction, and improvises with a focus on the total group dynamic. At the core of each performance is a collection of ideas, compositional and formal frameworks, and shared practices and strategies that each of us draws upon to intuitively realize a collective musical statement.
It was essential to me that the music presented on this album be created through an intuitive and unhurried process. So, rather than presenting the music in a written form, with specific pre-determined arrangements, all of the music captured on this album was communicated and developed aurally. This process required each musician to engage deeply with the material and to fully internalize each element of the compositions, and enables a greater fluidity and flexibility in our execution of the music. I am eternally grateful to saxophonist Marcus Elliot, bassist Ben Rolston, and drummer Stephen Boegehold for their creativity, musicianship, and commitment to this project. As a quartet, we have been collaborating for almost five years, and our individual relationships go back even further. Much of the work preparing for “Towards The Center” occurred during a three week period of intense composition, practice, and group development in Poschiavo, Switzerland, as a part of the UNCOOL Artists in Residence program sponsored by Cornelia Mueller.
“Towards The Center” is dedicated to the visionary musician, poet, and artist, Henry Grimes. Since moving to New York in 2012, Henry has provided me with immeasurable creative wisdom and guidance during many hours of private lessons, playing, and conversation. Henry’s brilliance as a musician is equalled by his profound poetic statements. The newest composition on the album is a suite of music entitled “Adama”, inspired by Henry’s poem “Adama and Porquory” (2006 Signs Along The Road). The poem, and the suite, is a spiritual history of human beings, beginning with total Harmony, unity of purpose and understanding, to disorder and conflict, and disparate human mythologies created to define the inexplicable forces that have shaped our universe. It is a cycle from togetherness to apartness, and could be heard from any starting point.
This album is the first complete artistic statement I have made as a composer and bandleader. I am indebted to each and every individual who has helped make this recording possible, including my family, friends, collaborators, and teachers, as well as to the 121 individuals who supported our successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. The music has been documented beautifully, recorded and mixed by David Stoller at The Samurai Hotel Recording Studio in Queens, New York, and mastered by Kevin Blackler at Blackler Studios in Brooklyn, New York. Their hard work is represented in the quality of sound you hear on the album. The album artwork, an unsigned painting purchased in Kathmandu, Nepal, is a contemporary Mandala, that conveys the qualities of balance and gravity that I aspire to musically. In addition to contributing his vision as a bassist, Ben Rolston also co-produced and provided graphic design for the album.
Thank you so much for your support and interest in this project. I hope you enjoy the music.