David Fiuczynski's Guggenheim Fellowship Composition Premieres Dec. 7

By 
Nick Balkin
November 16, 2012
David Fiuczynski
Photo by Roy Edwards

Berklee professor David Fiuczynski will premiere his ambitious new work, "Flam! Pan-Asian MicroJam for J Dilla and Olivier Messiaen," on December 7. The piece, which took nearly two years to write, is the result of a Guggenheim Fellowship the guitarist received in 2011. It breaks new ground by incorporating microtonal birdsong-based melodies, J Dilla-inspired hip-hop beats, Japanese court music, Chinese folk songs, Indian alaps, and Turkish invocations. At the concert, audience members will see various birds on a video screen and hear their birdcalls, then listen as those sounds are interwoven into the music. 

"Olivier Messiaen, a French composer and ornithologist who used birdsongs in his music, was a major influence," says Fiuczynski. "Messiaen's birdsongs, Dilla's beats, and Eastern music share a lot of the same rhythmic elements. I thought this would be a very unusual way to combine all of these styles that I love." 

The Guggenheim Fellowship is a $40,000 grant awarded to an artist in mid-career undertaking an important project. Fiuczynski's composition, which he plans to record next year with Berklee students and faculty, is based on his "Planet MicroJam" concept, a new musical language combining microtones (notes between the notes of the Western scale), jazz harmonies, and complex rhythms. Fiuczynski uses a double-neck fretless/fretted guitar, quarter tone guitar, and whammy bar to master a vocabulary of notes "between the cracks." 

The concert takes place on Friday, December 7, at 8:15 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Tickets are reserved seating, $8 (advance) and $12 (day of show). Purchase tickets at berkleebpc.com, by calling 617 747-2261, or by visiting the BPC box office. The venue is wheelchair accessible. 

David Fiuczynski's music is often described as unclassifiable, challenging, and invigorating. In 1994, he collaborated with John Medeski on the album Lunar Crush, a tribute to the Tony Williams Lifetime, which was chosen by Guitar Player as a Disc of Destiny. His recent music melds traditional melodic elements from the Middle East, Asia, India, and Eastern Europe with rock, funk, electronica, and other styles. His latest album, Planet MicroJam, was released earlier this summer on RareNoise Records. Fiuczynski leads the underground cult band Screaming Headless Torsos and has worked with Jack DeJohnette, Stewart Copeland, Meshell Ndegeocello, Vernon Reid, John Zorn, and many more.