The Musical Opus That Is “Centrifugal Satz Clock”

Written by on March 22, 2012 in Interviews, March 22, 2012 - Comments Off on The Musical Opus That Is “Centrifugal Satz Clock”

Steve KusabaCentrifula Satz Clock  creator/composer Steve Kusaba, who contributes his guitar skills to the project along with Steve Vai.

An interview with Salt Lake City-based musician/composer Steve Kusaba (SK), who has just released a musical opus entitled Centrifugal Satz Clock.

All Access Magazine (AAM): How and when did you come up with the idea for the Centrifugal Satz Clock)?

SK: I once read a person’s art incorporates the wholeness of their being and this very much works for me as a good idea. There were a lot of intense emotions and ruminating baggage that had stewed over time. All that was needed was a clear vessel. In a vague way it started out a bit formless. Oddly enough, it was a dream that pulled it all together into a cohesive bond and to this day I don’t know how so much came out of so little. Dream chemicals have their own bizarre methods and for me they tend to condense what ever it is that I am working on, being attacked by, desiring-longing, fear etc etc. So what was done that day has great input though themes that can persist for decades. A common dream I have involves being in Europe and needing to make it to a flight – but, of course, something goes wrong and it is clear the flight will be missed and I’ll be stuck there for years. I pull out the phone and as I try to dial the keys they all fall off and the phone melts into little pieces. I also tend to dream in patterned shapes that are frequently rectangular. Thus a number of buildings are at the bottom of a hill while other bigger ones are at the top and they are all contained in a pinball table shape. (or football field, and often places I have lived compressed into a rectangle)  If there is not enough air in the room I tend to dream that I have went deeply underground in a very large concrete building that seals its doors very tightly.

All rules of the physical world can be violated. You can walk out of your back door and be in Hong Kong or you can be in an airplane and then just be flying in the clouds, drifting down. This environment hardly seems to be one in which your large themes could get sorted out but oddly enough that’s what happened.This particular dream happened when I fell asleep to Mahler’s third symphony and it kicked deeply into gear when, towards the end, the instruments give the effect of rushing about as if there are many people being driven by a purpose, independent of any arranged or planned action. This story had been happening for a bit but then Ifound myself in 1945 Germany as WWII was winding down. It was overwhelming this feeling an enormously massive event had just occurred, swallowing up legions of people in a Kessel or Cauldron. The forces that had inflicted this great suffering on people and animals had been vanquished and there were oddly shaped survivors that looked a lot like the man in the painting “The Scream,” though not quite so abstract. My thinking was, “Holy cow, this place was just engulfed in maximum intensity, I had better be VERY careful, there could be traces of the bile that instigated all of it.”   I moved towards the people to find out where it was safe and what someone should do to keep their head on their shoulders (litteraly – it was a minefield!) when they approached and said “What shall we do?” It became clear these unfortunates were looking to me to guide them (this was absolutely the last thing I expected) and the level of guiding implied to be very deep. I woke up then and the usual adjustments reality imposes were instantly actualized. Not just that the whole thing had been made up in your head, but that, in the big picture most individuals are very insignificant on a grand scale (though powerful in influence and affect on a local and individual level) and it is next to impossible to affect macro events in a beneficial way (one can, unfortunately, always prevail to cause great damage and trouble. A useless skill most of the time). This experience, in an odd way, brought together all  the hopes, aspirations, angers and resentments, desires, and a host of other synergistic features that I was trying to amalgamate. As I sat up in the bed I decided to fuse everything into a grand super story with subsets that would give great context to the new musical textures and sounds I was coming in contact with. After all, the character of Hagan allowed Wagner to unleash such great dark energy with such great success. Had he been stuck with using the cookie monster over his music with its energetic Hoi Ho’s and chromatic cow horns while a famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookie being devoured, it might not have inspired him towards his arguably greatest moment (amongst many greatest moments).

Fascinating sounds demand a lively story that connects with the music intimately, much like how Berg chose very wisely in his operas to have tales that matched the unique starkness of his dampened serial language. Socially, the great plus was over a large canvas of time many things of greater depth could be explored and ideas that might lead to positive outcomes for living creatures could be introduced into the greater debate of man. A lifetime of experience, the good and bad, the errors and triumphs could be put into possible service to whoever could use it.  And most of all, people could derive pleasure from it.      The impulse had formed and now all that was left in this large gathering was to deal with the many, many details.

AAM: Discuss your overall goals and objectives for the project?

SK: There are a large number of goals embedded into the Centrifugal Sat Clock project. The first goal is to create music that deeply moves people to many emotional extremes – from the pitched to the meditative – in the service of giving the listener pleasure from a variety of angles. From pure candy to the challenging, from catharsis to sadistic sarcasm and beyond. Also, given the new tools available to composers and music producers, an attempt is made to fully incorporate these new tools into the musical language and literature – to develop new textures, forms, and standards of instrumentation, all in a very musical and compositional context. Out of this desire came the inspiration for the advancement of a new super-genre I call “Omni.” Socially, story-wise,  the goals are broad. Having a discussion aboutthe more complex aspects of the economy and government has not always been the lore of music radio but here are songs about bankers and bureaucrats!!! Bailouts and other fraud included. The great debate shows political groups in disarray. There is something for everyone. And of course, love interests.      Realising part of the reason the public discourse is so polarising is the extreme differences in the ways people view life and its elements, one goal was to expose this point in a big way.Over the journey it is hoped the theme of all people being valuable and similar in so many ways while the visions of reality are so extremely different will come through. The memes, belief systems,worldviews, opinion ofself, opinion of what is acceptable for others – these things an thousands more serve to make the idea of a homogeneous whole, to push everyone into the tea strainer of sameness, a somewhat questionable concept. It celebrates certain natural differences and encourages people to congregate with like-minded associates, so as to experience community based on similar outlook, all while having a deep respect for the ideas and desires of people who see things differently. It is most strongly a play for the celebration of the individual and a move towards their freedom to live their life as it best works for them as long as I doesn’t harm other life.      These ideas are bound by complexity and detail is important. Throughout history, man was inhibited and exposed to great suffering from an assortment of despots and megalomaniacs. Today the earth is coated in a deep thick crust of controlling structures that exist to milk their subjects and bamboozle them with con games and sophistries. The goal for the individual to be free from these corrosive forces is a key message. From the suffocating police state of North Korea, to Myanmar, The Sudan and beyond, millions suffer heavily. The lesser evils are hardly bastions of human expression either. It could be accurately argued today no place is free and the search for just one free location is of critical importance. Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote the nation state is apartheid without political correctness.      Another objective is to monetize the different sections so the whole thing can be produced faster. Worse case scenario it would agonizingly come out slowly as money became available. Best case, total funding would allow completion quickly! An important goal is to have as many installed listeners as possible who desire to really know the piece, so they could enjoy the full range of its offerings. The more people that have fun with it, the happier I am! I hope others will find the idea of Omni composition and production enticing and join the movement.

AAM: What music genres are found in the Centrifugal Satz Clock?

SK: The main title I gave to this type of music is “Omni.” The rules of Omni dictate all things are permitted, indeed encouraged, as long as these elements work musically. Thus, Scottish bag pipes are permitted though never required. It is not just instruments that are allowed but every pertinent dimension of music as well. The Centrifugal Satz Clock features a very wide array and the future sections move further out. “Google Earth” is a pure pop song of the bubbly variety while “Sonntag” is a classical string quartet. “Barrow” is a pure Omni section, featuring pop instrumentation and vocals along with a classical vocal and string section. “Huntin’ and a Fishin'” uses classical compositional techniques with pop instrumentation. “We Run This Place” fuses soft Metal (well, that is a difficult term because there are so many different ways to view it) with classical writing. “Release the Memes” is similar but has overtones of Jazz harmonies in its construction, while “Clio” features Jazz with space age solo concepts.         A very talented rhythm section lent its talents to the construction of “Does She Know About Us?” a difficult score that combines a Broadway-type story with Jazz textures, but featuring complex Classical Counterpoint. “Murdering Arm of Kindness” is a very classical piece, though it covers many languages of the classical genre – until it morphs to an electronic world that interacts with rock/pop instrumentation. One of the more severe implementations of the Omni methods is demonstrated in “Octagon,” where the dark energy is translated into many languages  and textures while traveling through the comic absurdness of its casino scene in the early middle section. Sometimes it feels more relevant to ask which genre was left out, but given that it is a big world with a long history, it is best to not answer that! Glam rock, ‘80s,‘70s, ‘60s, 2020s and more are present while many new sub genres have been created. We hope we can land some amazing R&B singers for the later parts among other things.

AAM: Centrifugal Satz Clock is divided into multiple parts, why is that?

SK: The division starts at the macro level and continues down into  the cellular. The big divide was largely a practical one. Part One was released before production of the entire cycle was completed. It was obvious grinding away at the full 47 hours and sitting on all the music in the mean time was not very logical from a number of angles. Now, people can hear part of it! Of note, Part One (“Morning”) has four sections or stories that overlap. The synopsis is on the website along with the book and lots of other information like the lyrics and scores. Within the four stories there are four other divisions, etc etc. I hope  the listener will have fun listening to the music during certain parts of the stories and note where the correlated themes re-emerge as well as their derivatives in other sections.

AAM: You were able to secure the services of such noted musicians as Dweezil  Zappa and Steve Vai to lend their talents to the project, which is pretty incredible. How did you make that happen?

SK: One of the key inputs to the actualization of the project with so many dynamic and wonderful musicians was the book “Never Eat Alone.” Many features of networks and how they can be accessed are addressed within. The book stressed if you work at it, you should be able to reach a broad range of people. Of course we were told no great many people in the process! We contacted managers of many who’s who. As (comedian) Gilbert Gottfried elaborated, as you move up the well-known name pyramid, people are more likely to be interested in working with you. Probably if you are really successful at this, when you need it the least, you will have access to lots people! When you need this access the most, it’s work to get the janitor to play the washboard for three minutes (laughs). One breakthrough involved connecting to the University of Utah Opera class. This lead to a treasure trove of vocal talent. Many of the headliners were actually found online.      Billy Hulting of Zappa Plays Zappa has a great service called Session Pros where he connects people with performers the industry’s best performers. He did great work making connections for us – and,by the way, he is a master at conducting session work (who would have thought with a name like that for hi company)!  We were very fortunate with this phase and hope to be fortunate in the next phases. But all of the players were added bit by bit with elbow grease and work.

AAM: *What is your musical background, and what music artists (be they bands or solo artists) influenced you in the past?

SK: If you are an Omni writer it behooves you to know and absorb hundreds of musical inspirations. And I love all of mine a ton. Bach, Mahler, and Wagner top the list but the usual giants were very inspiring also: Machaut, Gesualdo, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Lizt, Brahms, Zemlinsky, Medtner, Debussy, Ravel, Berg, Webern, Schoenberg, Ives, Carter, and so many others. On the pop side, when I was very young I was lucky to pick out The Beatles and The Rolling Stones records in grade school. This was the connection that made music the number one core activity from then on, wavering back and forth in intensity throughout the years. I listened to almost everything but the next serious influences were Hendrix, Led Zepplin, The Who, and Cream. I still like hearing NSU live(the live stuff is the best when it works) turned up to 11. (Cream bassist) Jack Bruce always intrigued me because he would always have something interesting that you didn’t expect from him. I also developed a taste for the Jazz language – I loved Oscar Peterson and Joe pass, especially when they played together. Bill Evans was a pure joy but Coltrane was raw energy. When he went off the deep end with Pharoah Sanders I knew I was one lucky listener! Fusion was fantastic. Mahavishnu Orchestra was a great mind opener. Jesus Christ Super Star by Andrew Lloyd Webber was proof the Omni concept worked.  It was only later that I recalled how seamlessly he pulled off the blending of musics. Of course the big figure in blending was Frank Zappa. I remember when I was working in Miami during the release of (Zappa album) Apostrophe. I was working at the time on water tower construction. I heard Frank on the radio,  mocking everyone saying “You have to go to work but I don’t have to, I’ll play music.” Harhar har!  I was thinking, “I want to be a music guy, not a concrete human.” I saw him many times in Salt Lake and he always brought sharp crisp bands that exuded power. If you liked Frank’s musical style your options were him or nothing.  He was a true original. It wasn’t until the ‘90s that I lost track of most of what came out. I liked all manner of groups: The Tubes, late Doobie Brothers, Genesis, Marvin Gaye, Elvis Costello, (Temptation, what a masterpiece!) and the Finn Bothers. Crowded House had a real magic with songwriting, their “best of” is a special thing of high end creamer  songs that you don’t find often. Of course, this is just a fraction of the great music that crossed the tape over time. I feel bad for everyone I didn’t mention but some day I will make a super list.      Even today on YouTube I am hearing obscure composers that really are monsters of the midway!! Issay Dobrowen, Dora Pejacovic, Schreker, Vladigerov, Pijper and so many others.

Centrifugal Satz Clock

AAM: In parting, when people listen to the Centrifugal Satz Clock, what thoughts would you ultimately like them to come away with?

SK: Hopefully, when the listener has brain-mapped the material, and gains a certain familiarity with the piece, they will be pleasantly engaged in the melodies, the themes, and the new worlds Omni has to offer. I hope the listeners will feel like they went on a magical journey, one that isn’t ending any time soon. I would hope it would serve to widen their experiences and information base but above all they would have a great and enjoyable time. Within some of the work’s most sarcastic moments are hidden moments of despair and amongst the despair there is comedy.      “And I hide all the sorrow of moments then surrendered. Cast out a line to the Islands of my dream. Wake to a fantasy an offer that was tendered, using these maps to plan out my special scene” – Google Earth (song from “Seconds From The Clock”).