©2017 Peter Walters.

RESEARCH: THE PATH TO EXPERTISE AND UNDERSTANDING

Being attracted to music as a teen and having no formal experience of it at either school or home, I unwittingly undertook a lifelong commitment to a personalised study of it. 

Autodidactic-ism has been the order of the day.

I bought my first bass at 14 and taught myself to read music from “Chicago” sheet music; (the band that is). I worked out other simpler music by ear.

I taught myself music theory with any available books but especially books from the “Dick Grove School of Music” in California.

An ever growing appreciation of modern jazz compelled me to graduate to acoustic bass and to undertake my only instrumental lessons in classical technique.

By the early eighties I was performing on electric and acoustic bass in a variety of settings; jazz, blues, originals and more commercial forms and being session bassist at major advertising studio “Suite Sixteen”.

Research outputs so far -

1/ advanced instrumental techniques necessary for the complexities of modern jazz performance

2/ advanced theoretical knowledge necessary for the complexities of modern jazz performance and arranging

 

3/ stylistic knowledge of various genres of music necessary for live and studio performance.

 

The early nineties found me teaching bass at QUT's newly established Popular and Jazz Course. I was also soon to be invited to teach at the newly established Qld Conservatorium Jazz Diploma Course. I still teach at tertiary level to this day having guided hundreds of students to graduation.

Research outputs -

 

1/ the continual reevaluation of methods of communication of music materials

 

2/ the continual reevaluation of aesthetic principles underlying the musicians craft

 

3/ the ongoing dedication to the promotion and affirmation of improvised music in general and of the bass in particular.

 

I then enrolled in a Masters degree in music at the QUT claiming bachelor equivalency, where upon I studied course subjects of 20th century composers, recording technology, arranging and orchestration, and music for film and television. I finished that degree with a composition project culminating in a CD of original pieces exploring counterpoint in jazz arranging with a grade point average of 6.2.

Concurrently, I purchased my first personal computer and began to learn notation and arranging software and then audio recording software.

 

Research outputs -

 

1/ more sophisticated approach to composing and arranging culminating in future projects of film scoring and arranging.

 

2/ recording & mixing skills that would lead to future record production projects

 

 

To this date, I continue as a freelance bassist, guitarist and session musician, jazz theorist, bass tutor, arranger and record producer.

I am now enrolled in a PHD beginning in 2019 and look forward to investigating music in a very much deeper and detailed way than I have ever before.

BLACK SOLDIER BLUES

Description of the Work

 

Black Soldier Blues is a film documenting the experiences of black American soldiers stationed in Queensland and the South Pacific during World War II. My task as composer was to underscore the themes of alienation, prejudice, and injustice encountered by these soldiers.

Research Background

 

To underscore these collective experiences, I had to source the geographical and ethno musical backgrounds of these men. Many recruits were from the southern states and their musical legacy was rural blues and gospel whereas some were from the North and their musical background was urban blues and jazz. I also had to weave into the score military themes, all of which, combined, determined the instrumentation used in the score.

Research Contribution

 

This soundtrack creates the emotional ambience that underscores the experiences and recollections of an otherwise forgotten minority during a crucial time in World War II. It highlights not only their dilemma in wartime but signals a collective desire to address their woes on return to home and civilian life.

 

Research Significance

Black Soldier Blues was screened in Australia on SBS in 2005 and in Finland in 2007. It was also played onboard QANTAS flights. It fills an important gap in the history of World War II in general and the history of black emancipation as told by the participants themselves. The research is significant in that it informs the music practitioner of the stylistic variations of Blues and Jazz music based on period, geography and demographics and of the implications of those variations on cultural cohesion.

https://youtu.be/2UPdu0ufDu8

WORLD CHAMPION SANTA

Description of the Work

 

“World Champion Santa” is a light hearted documentary commissioned by the ABC,  chronicling the rise and rise of novice film maker to the mantle of world champion Santa Claus

 

Research Background

 

This romp through the Arctic Circle of Sweden required a musical backdrop of jaunty melodies and upbeat rhythms accompanied by the pervasive sound of sleigh bells. I embarked on thorough listenings to the lush orchestrations of evergreen Bing Crosby compilations and selected Big Band Xmas Jazz pieces of Count Basie and Stan Kenton as well as traditional Xmas carols.

Research Contribution

 

This soundtrack creates an atmosphere of wild fun and the tireless pursuit of triviality belying a sophistication in timing and tempo that were paramount objectives in the writing of this score.

 

Research Significance

 

“World Champion Santa”  was screened in Australia on the ABC in 2009. It was a challenging and energising project for me as it was an enormous departure from the typical process of serious composition and it permitted me to pursue obvious musical forms and cliches that proved entirely appropriate for the narrative.

https://youtu.be/tJRjpg3pjz4

THE TROUBLE WITH ST MARY'S

Description of the Work

 

“The Trouble With St Mary's” is a film documenting the drama arising out of the conflicting dogmas of a popular renegade Catholic priest and his Church hierarchy.

My task as a composer was to create an ecclesiastical ambience with an underlying menace as the once comfortable relationship irreconcilably breaks down.

Research Background

 

To imagine the appropriate musical gravitas of this ongoing drama I listened to and drew inspiration from J S Bach and 20th century Estonian minimalist religious composer Arvo Part. I chose solo piano, solo cello and chamber ensemble environments with an emphasis on simplicity and repetition. I also introduced modern harmony and instrumentation to stamp the protagonist's narrative with allusions of modernity.

 

Research Contribution

 

This soundtrack underscores the tension of the playing out of antagonistic forces and their inevitable clash in the public arena. The music had to convey an ecclesiastical gravitas and build in intensity as the story unfolded. Baroque and earlier forms of church music tend not to build in intensity as this music does and herein lies the innovation that the documentary dictated. 

 

Research Significance

 

“The Trouble With St Mary's” was screened in Australia on ABC in 2011. It documented the development of an alarming schism in the Catholic Church, and highlighted an important development in the social fabric of a liberal democracy. The soundtrack ties together ancient and modern musical forms and textures that mirror the ambiguities of modern religious thought and practice and signals an interesting new direction in composition as an adjunct to spiritual enquiry.

https://youtu.be/YhfjSQTSR3k

CD: STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART - WILEY REED

Description of the Work

 

“Straight From The Heart” is a compilation of classic Blues and R&B covers performed

by Brisbane's perennial blues songster, the late Wiley Reed.

 

 

Research Background

 

Wiley Reed grew up in Florida, USA, and was influenced by the Southern music traditions of Gospel and Blues. He accompanied himself on piano in his live performances and therefore I based the production of this album around a trio of piano, double bass and drums, with some guest soloists on saxophone and organ.

 

Research Contribution

 

The technical challenge of recording this album was chiefly in capturing the powerful, rich and dynamic voice of Wiley Reed, one of Australia's genuine blues legends. 

Also, choosing the right balance of blues and more popular styles for this album was a production quandary due to Wiley's vast repertoire.

Research Significance

“Straight From The Heart” garnered three Sunny awards in 2004:

Best Male Vocal – Wiley Reed

Best Blues Album -“Straight From The Heart”

Best Production – Peter Walters

 

This album served to document and promote to a wider audience an artist with a significant and authentic sound, who had previously not been recorded in any professional way thus far. It also provided proof that examples of genuine cultural artefacts from abroad can be successfully represented here on the national scene without diminishing the impact and power of their artistry.

Muddy Water - Wiley Reed
00:00 / 00:00
I Put Spell on You - Wiley Reed
00:00 / 00:00
CD: ONE BRIGHT STAR - KRISTINA KELMAN

Description of the Work

 

“One Bright Star” is a Christmas themed jazz vocal album commissioned by Rhonda Sandberg, dedicated to late American vocal arranger Frank Pooler and performed by Kristina Kelman and her band led by Peter Walters.

 

Research Background

 

We have been assailed over the decades by many jazz Christmas albums that treat the seasonal song to a standard swing treatment. On this album, I endeavoured to bring an entirely new level of emotional depth to better commemorate the recent passing of a great vocal arranger (and co-songwriter of The Carpenters) Frank Pooler.

 

Research Contribution

 

On this album I treated traditional songs and carols to modern harmony and rhythms, and rewrote two songs penned by Rhonda Sandberg.  Original tracks by Kristina and myself (the title track), bring a unique gravitas to the usual Xmas fare.

Research Significance

 

“One Bright Star” is a unique album in its dual role as a reflection on the joy of Christmas and as a lament for a cherished spouse. An American music industry veteran has reached out to Australian talent in search of freshness and authenticity to better express her love of the season and the sense of loss for her dearly beloved. 

The result is a highly original and evocative album that steps away from the standard Christmas treatment.

One Bright Star - Kristina Kelman
00:00 / 00:00
O Christmas Tree - Kristina Kelman
00:00 / 00:00

CD: LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME   KELSEY GIAROLA

 

Description of the Work

“Love Me Or Leave Me” is a jazz vocal album by conservatorium trained singer Kelsey Giarola of innovative arrangements of classic jazz standards.

 

Research Background

Classic jazz instrumentation of piano trio and the featuring of guitar, vibraphone and saxophone are the hallmarks of this album. Capturing the mood and swing of the jazz tradition but adding the requisite modern nuance and flair for younger contemporary audiences was the challenge of this production.

 

Research Contribution

 

As the standard of quality of independent recording on the local and national scene increases so does the need for world class innovation in presenting classic jazz standards to new and younger audiences.  My own studies of jazz orchestration, reharmonisation and contemporary rhythms added to decades of performing “in the tradition”, culminated in the fresh re presentation of these timeless classics.

Research Significance

 

This album typifies the flourishing of world class contemporary jazz singers, arrangers and performers emerging out of the local Brisbane scene. The arranging, production and vocal & instrumental performances demonstrate a growing sophistication and confidence in the pursuit of originality and excellence and risk taking.

Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You - Kelsey Giarola
00:00 / 00:00
Bye Bye Blackbird - Kelsey Giarola
00:00 / 00:00
CD: METAMORPHOSIS  WENDY MURRAY

Description of the Work

 

“Metamorphosis” is an eclectic mix of original songs and covers by Qld Music Awards winner Wendy Murray.

 

Research Background

 

Wendy's highly original songwriting and her attraction to obscure and offbeat covers required a deft touch in production to offset the more eccentric facets of her chosen repertoire. I brought to this repertoire of seemingly disparate songs my studies of harmony and counterpoint and my own eclectic contemporary aesthetic, to shape an album of depth and nuance.

 

Research Contribution

 

The challenge of recording this album was in creating a cohesive whole, in mood and tempo and structure. I chose standard instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums. But layered on this are the harmonies and textures of a broad range of musical traditions and styles and exotic instruments.

 

Research Significance

 

This album is an example of the growing maturity in music production in this country,

earmarked by eclecticism, robust musicianship, and inventiveness.

 

“Peter's arranging skills brought my most daring musical ideas to life.”

~  Wendy Murray

Ojos de mi Hija - Wendy Murray
00:00 / 00:00
Anna - Wendy Murray
00:00 / 00:00
PERFORMANCE: TOKYO BAY HILTON

Description of the Work

 

A six month contract to perform jazz six nights a week, five hours per night in cocktail lounge “Windows On The World”., Tokyo Bay Hilton, 1995.

 

Research Background

 

Japanese audiences are partial to jazz and particularly classic instrumentalists like Miles Davis and singers Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. The task was to bring simple eloquent arrangements of classic jazz standards that would work in a trio setting of vocals, piano and double bass and to create a vibrant ambience marked by sophistication and soul.

 

Research Contribution

 

I transcribed and charted trio arrangements by the Christian McBride Trio and The Diana Krall band as well as creating my own new scores.  Being a drummerless ensemble, the importance of the double bass in driving the music rhythmically became paramount and tested my physical and mental stamina especially over five hours per night.

 

Research Significance

 

The significance of this engagement for me as a musician was twofold: as an arranger, I had to acquire the discipline of succinctness appropriate for the trio setting. And as a bassist, I had to develop technically and mentally the stamina for continuous playing over five hours nightly, six days a week for six months.

PERFORMANCE: AUSTRALIAN TOUR WITH DIANA KRALL, 2007

Description of the Work

 

A fourteen day tour as support to Diana Krall, as a promotional vehicle for the release on Verve Records of The Mark Sholtez album.

 

Research Background

 

Fully arranged songs of the album had to be reduced to trio format ie. piano, acoustic guitar and double bass.

Research Contribution

 

A heightened level of professionalism had to be developed quickly, as Australian jazz performers rarely play to such large audiences in such venues as the Sydney Opera House.

 

Research Significance

 

This tour brought some highly original local songwriting and arranging to a larger Australian audience. It was also enlightening to participate in the sheer professionalism of the main act, Diana Krall. 

PERFORMANCE: BACKING NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS

Description of the Work

 

I have over the years backed some of Australia's finest performers such as Kerry Biddell, Vince Jones, Wiley Reed, James Morrison and Don Burrows as well as international artists Vanessa Rubin, Sheila Jordan, Johnny Griffin, Clifford Jordan, Annie Ross, Don Menzer, Richie Cole, Joachim Khun, Jason Rebello , Andreas Oberg and many more.

 

Research Background

 

Every engagement demanded a rigorous investigation into the nuances and general trajectory of the artist's performances.

 

Research Contribution

 

For all of the aforementioned artists I brought an honest attempt to meet their stylistic expectations with a spirit of improvisation and respect for the traditional underpinnings of their craft.

 

Research Significance

 

To perform at the very least at a professional level (and sometimes at a high artistic level)  with arguably some of the great exponents of the jazz craft was not only an honour and a professional highpoint, but a significant event in the cultural life of a slowly but steadily advancing city of Brisbane.