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> Eclectic Eve CD By Christopher Lapina, New Age Music
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Posted: 20-Sep-2011, 04:22 PM
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“Life should be a transcendent journey of exploration with hope for enlightenment and clues to the meaning of time,” states composer/keyboardist Christopher Lapina. On his mostly instrumental album, Eclectic Eve, Lapina musically tells the tale of a woman making her life trek and succeeding in becoming a more knowledgeable, creative and well-rounded person.

“Eve is a fictional symbolic character who, as she grows and changes during her process of self-discovery, becomes more far-seeing and eclectic in her vision,” explains Lapina. “So, of course, I made the music eclectic to reflect her many and wide-ranging experiences. I believe eclecticism makes art deeper, richer in meaning and more interesting.”

The music on Eclectic Eve includes new age, minimalism, neo-classical, jazz, ambient, cello with piano or synth, solo piano, shifting-time-signatures, percussion-only, swinging-choral, and some ensemble pieces with guitars, bass and sax. Much of Lapina’s love of eclecticism comes from his study and appreciation of pianists and composers such as modern-music pioneers Erik Satie, Henry Cowell, Edgard Varese and John Cage. Lapina’s style is summed up by the definition of “eclectic” -- “selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods or styles; or composed of elements drawn from various sources.”

Lapina has a background performing in pop and soul bands, playing with Martha Reeves and B.J. Thomas, carefully examining modern classical music, studying under avant-garde composer Harold Budd in college, and writing music for stage plays. Lapina composed and produced the 12 tunes on the album and plays piano, synthesizer, prepared piano or percussion on every piece except the lone vocal number. “Prepared piano” describes placing various objects next to a piano’s strings, and then striking those objects with either a mallet or the keyboard hammers to turn the piano into a percussion instrument.

On Eclectic Eve Lapina is joined by a variety of accomplished musicians. These include Ron Baggerman on the BO-EL seven-string guitar (he is a recording artist based in The Netherlands who has played with Chris Hinze and Kai Kurosawa), Phil McCusker on hollow-body electric guitar (Bruce Hornsby, Chris Botti, Diana Ross, George Duke), and bassist Dallas Smith (Herbie Hancock, Stanley Turrentine, Patti LaBelle, Clark Terry). Appearing on three tunes is cellist Suzanne Orban (National Symphony Orchestra, Mid-Atlantic Chamber Orchestra, Opus Tango Ensemble) and on two pieces is saxophonist Rob Holmes (a recording artist who also has played with Ken Navarro, Johnny Mathis, Jon Faddis, Christian McBride). John Emrich (sound designer and developer of electronic percussion instruments for major companies) plays percussion and drums. The one vocal tune, “Lucy Turns Eclectic,” features a special eight-voice choir singing a wordless arrangement by James Hosay (who has composed for The Washington Pops Orchestra and Chorus, and The Washington Winds). On that composition Lapina uses pianist John Fluck (former Director of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Band), and on the piece “Moon and Spoon” the piano is performed by Ronald Chiles (George Hummel, QuinTango, the Boston Pops Orchestra). “I would have played the piano on those two tunes,” says Lapina, “but in both cases I wanted to concentrate on serving as the producer and I found it interesting to bring in these specific musicians, knowing the attributes that they would bring to the recording.”

On the cover of the Eclectic Eve CD, Eve’s face is subtly shown in profile behind a mystical, otherworldly tree, while the music itself chronicles various points of Eve’s journey. One of her destinations is simply called the Highland, which Lapina describes as “an ethereal elevated place where the mind is uncluttered and more receptive, a site that Eve goes back to many times to discover more.” The album opens with “Highland Return” which hints at the far-reaching repercussions of her exploration with its unusual time-shifts from 5/4 to 9/8 to 3/4 and back to 5/4. This musical theme is then explored later in two different ways -- “Highland Variation #1” is cello and synth, while “Highland Variation #9” is solo synth. The second number on the album, “Hand in Glove,” is an all-percussion piece. At this point Eve finds a kindred spirit whom she fits with and who mentors her. “Rolling Blue,” an ensemble tune with a fluid guitar sound and sax, rolls with a blues structure and alludes to crossing an ocean. “This Time” again pairs Orban on cello and Lapina on synthesizer (with Lapina adding chimes played with mallets). Lapina and Orban also duet on “Before You,” but with Lapina on piano. “This tune is a tribute to those moments when any of us take a creative endeavor and place it before another person for their reaction.”

Eve’s trip also brings her into contact with specific people. “My Darling Esmerelda,” another double-guitar tune, is created in loving memory of Eve’s sister, whose journey was cut short. “Lucy Turns Eclectic,” which has a choir singing vocalese over a jazz quartet, refers to a disciple of Eve’s who is learning her own valuable lessons of eclecticism. Along the way, Eve falls in love with someone from afar (“Moon and Spoon”) and is inspired by those feelings. Eve’s moment of enlightenment is when she discovers secrets relating to the “String Theory,” a concept in physics that, although not yet completely proven, explains how everything in the universe works (all forces and particles unified as if they are strung together). With this knowledge and her varied experiences, Eve returns home ready to share her insights and create her art. Even though “She’s Often Here” (the closing piece with Lapina playing solo piano), she sometimes leaves on further adventures.

Lapina was able to incorporate a wide variety of musical styles and sounds into Eclectic Eve because his musical background is far-ranging. Born and raised just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Christopher became enamored with the piano in first grade and soon was taking lessons. At 13 he also began playing acoustic guitar. When he was 14, his band, Marvel, started performing professionally in bars and dancehalls throughout the area with Christopher playing electric guitar, organ and electric piano. The group additionally was in-demand as the band for vocal groups traveling through the region, and served as the opening act and backing band for acts such as Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, B.J. Thomas, The Capitols, The Marvelettes, Peaches & Herb and other R&B and pop artists.

Lapina continued his music studies and seriously focused on early 20th Century composers such as Claude Debussy, Bela Bartok, Erik Satie, Henry Cowell, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Edgard Varese. Lapina was accepted at the prestigious California Institute of the Arts near Los Angeles which states that “admissions are based solely on the applicant’s creative talent and future potential.” There he studied new forms of composition under seminal ambient composer Harold Budd and early computer music pioneer Jim Tenney. “We were encouraged to create new forms and structures such as alternative notation and the incorporation of environmental sounds,” remembers Lapina, who also took numerous ethno-musicology courses and got the opportunity to play the gong in a gamalon orchestra from the Philippines. He worked with dancers and film-makers. He became a John Cage ethusiast, studied Cage’s use of “prepared piano,” and recorded an homage to him which was broadcast on radio station KPFK.

Lapina spent some time working on films as an audio technician and advisor on sound design. Later Lapina composed music for experimental theater groups in Washington, DC. He began exploring synthesizers as well as the blending of acoustic instruments and synthesized sounds. He moved to London for an extended period. He met guitarist Ron Baggerman (who contributes to Eclectic Eve) in Cannes on the French Riviera and they performed improvisations together. Lapina is a longtime jazz listener who admires Weather Report, Chick Corea, Charles Mingus and McCoy Tyner, and the jazz-pop of Steely Dan.

Regarding his recording, Lapina says, “Yes, Eve’s journey is somewhat a reflection of my own. As I acquired knowledge, more tools and new sensibilities it opened the door to fresh creative energies and allowed me to create more substantial musical productions.”
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