Whispers of Sunrise: Enchanted Piano Sounds with David Franklin

David Franklin: One Day In Spring

An album of solo piano improvisations, sweet and light, by composer David Franklin. With mixtures of tentative single notes and flowing fuller chords that explore and rehearse the story of life, the zen of here it is, just like this, taking the piano into the new day.

The cover art presents the way the light comes in and meets the scene just here, the image is a snapshot of the place that the music

was imagined, when it became clear that this view of the keyboard and the refractions of light, this picture of an ordinary moment, the magic of the way it was right then. There are parallel lines on the wall and the black and white keys form a pattern of parallel forms. The direction of the light and the way the light came over the keyboards with dazzling reflections and layers, the way the beam converges and hits that spot where you sit when you play this piano.

Beginning with just a few notes, a melody that might say “is it safe?” calling into the darkness, just before the night has ended the moods conveyed are minimally sparse quiet comforting, “just before dawn” (3:23). This is the sound of a new beginning, not just any day but this day. The melody continues and finds new strengths, tries new ideas and creates a relaxing and stress-releasing sound using just one piano, one who is alone and playing for curiosity or just release, not trying to make a big show, just spending time in an interesting way, as if collecting thoughts as the song progresses the statements become more interlocking. Now turn a corner and there is a new moment trying something new at a different tempo. After all that return to the few notes that make up melodies, it is still completely dark but soon the dawn will start.

David Franklin, 2024, photo by Robert Birnbach

With “the gloaming” (3:24) imagine the coming of the first light, it will come shimmering. The sound is made of little clusters and long pauses. Here darkness is made a friend by telling the story, making it easy to understand. The twilight is a moving combination of the dark and the light bringing strange moments where the scene is unknowable but with each moment there is a comfort to how the story goes.

So far the first two tracks have been very sparse, now the voicing of the melody is more playful and fuller in general, “birds start their songs” (3:20). The hidden birds are gathered from fragments, very sparse and delicate. The piano first sets out a phrase using bare melodies and then returns with more depth and actual chords here and there. The feeling builds into more of a full structure as it goes along and then finishes by returning to the sparse and delicate.

Starting with a more chordal beginning, the individual birds are described, there is a sad one too. “another bird in the garden” (4:30) tells the story of a different bird, a singular bird. The phrasing is pretty much all chordal, with more resolved ideas here. This lonely bird seems isolated.

The fifth track, “grieving the dreamscape” (4:23) is dark and empty, while remaining very gently stated. The feeling starts opening up to flow into the promise of the new light with a melody that haunts deeply. Still, there is no light, only loss and sorrow. The atmosphere is thoughtful and moody but not obsessive. We are resigned to the safety of darkness, quiet and sober, gathering and developing an upward escape from the darkness. We might be okay after all or is this too much to hope for?

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Now with just a few tentative notes, starting with the shadows and darkness slowly coming into something more solid and nourishing “as light of mourning finally arrives” (4:34) and something good is about to happen. It starts very sparse and vulnerable single notes reaching about cautiously from the void into the light takes time to build, the light continues to grow. As the larger story changes from sparse individual notes, building into actual chords and becoming stronger and more confident, each track ends with returning to the very simple essence.

As we hoped, quietly imagining that there is no darkness, reclaiming the solid forms from out of the shadows, “night has left us all” (2:32) takes us exploring a new land, the tempo is calm and confident, reconsidering the darkness. “remembering george winston” (2:51) evokes just a melody that sounds familiar,  starting unassuming and then becoming melodic and flowing, balanced pursuing an outstanding quality of fluidity that recalls many live performances. The sound is emotional, perhaps a melody describing a dream. With bare tones crafting the melody and building into a more solid state finding the form, which is still rather open. 

“caffeinated and reconsidering slime molds” (3:30) is starting in a steady but slow assemblages of phrases, the story begins with a sleepy pace and feeling then takes hold and starts sounding energized, building and flowing into something solid. Soon the melody almost dances, little pieces that fit and nestle and grow, then slows down and fades. Now the day is strong and the urgency is easy to enjoy, slime molds are not this pretty.

Now imagine walking on a path in the woods, considering the trees and projecting the perceptions of arboreal life and feeling the different temperatures where the sun is and the cooler places where the night still remembers how cool its dominance of the atmosphere once was. Moving among the tall silent hosts, installing an anthropomorphic identity to an ever expanding reaching for the sun, “trees and silences are living beings” (2:34) is the final and most solid composition, new chords of the day, all warmed up and ready to begin the day. Perhaps this is the place where the morning’s most informative and inspiring moments are found, with some of the dancing feelings from the caffeinated track, turning around and around gently settling down to wrap up this brief journey, now turning into a more animated feeling which then drops into the stillness.

One Day in Spring marks a successful new approach for Oakland-based composer and pianist David Franklin, a welcome addition to the Contemporary Instrumental, New Age, and Solo Piano realms.

01 – just before dawn (3:23)
02 – the gloaming (3:24)
03 – birds start their songs (3:20)
04 – another bird in the garden (4:30)
05 – grieving the dreamscape (4:23)
06 – as light of mourning finally arrives (4:34)
07 – night has left us all (2:32)
08 – remembering george winston (2:51)
09 – caffinated and reconsidering slime molds (3:30)
10 – trees and silences are living beings (2:34)

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