By Amy Bormet
My piece “Call” was inspired by our trip to Thailand, and the musical concept of “the call”. “The Call” is when the band takes a break, and the bandleader wants to start the show again. They head to the stage and start playing alone, declaring the start of another set, and the band walks up to join in.
Since returning from Thailand I have been playing alone in my home for months. As a freelance musician, calls were no longer coming in, and like many others I pivoted to work online. I miss my daily interaction with other musicians on the bandstand and off. I often talk to music students about music being a calling, not just a job, and this break has made me recognize that performing brings so much joy into my life. Despite the stress and depression, the piano continues to be a comfort for me, and an important mental health routine as I write and practice daily. I have never been more grateful to be a musician and have this music to keep me afloat.
Traveling to Bangkok was my last trip out of the country before the pandemic, and was a powerful experience performing with the band, jamming with new friends, and listening to amazing music at the jazz festival. Every night I would call my husband and tell him all my favorite moments of my day. I told him how I casually chatted with Rachel Z, an amazing jazz musician at the festival, over breakfast. I described how I went all over Bangkok looking for giant Buddhas and speeding in water taxis down canals. I bragged about our jam session, that it lasted all night and the young women from the local college were excited to “sit in” with a woman playing in the American band.
These calls solidified and crafted the stories of my memories, and I hold onto them now. As I sit alone again and again at the piano, writing new music and thinking of the next time I will be able to take the call, join a band, travel abroad, and immerse myself in a new culture through music.
There are three sections of the piece. The initial theme is “the call” representing the project coming together and our bandleader Will organizing the trip and our group calls with the members of the band. The call is repeated several times, and the texture thickens, becoming more harmonically interesting as the idea comes to life.
The second section with the descent and low rumble of the bass represents our travel to Bangkok, hauling our instruments and suitcases, rushing around airports, etc. The third section is short, fast, and spinning around, like our jetlag as we arrive and get settled. Then the first theme returns again, but this time it’s stretched out and dramatic with lush chords and thickened octaves in the left hand. This represents the band finally performing in Bangkok.
After all three sections have been played the improvisation starts on the original chords of the A section, a wild freewheeling line that creates conversation between two hands. When the improvisation is over the 2nd and 3rd sections return, traveling back to DC, and eventually finishing with dramatic modulation and elongation of the original theme, just as the project successfully finished and we returned safely before the shutdown.
I am looking forward to adapting this piece for a larger ensemble after the pandemic, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on my wonderful experiences in Thailand in 2020.