Author Archives: dantepfer

TriadSculpture for sale

At long last, I’m now offering my triad sculptures — the ones that I created while developing my Natural Machines project — for sale. Here’s the Major Triad (ratios 4:5:6) in natural sandstone: And here’s the Minor Triad, ratios 10:12:15 … Continue reading

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Negative Harmony: a primer

Ever since Five Pedals Deep, my trio record with Thomas Morgan and Ted Poor, came out in 2010, I’ve gotten a steady trickle of emails asking about a particular tune on it called Back Attya. If you listen to it … Continue reading

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McCoy Tyner: dance, drums, beauty salons & fourths

The great McCoy Tyner, giant of jazz, huge influence on me and countless others, died a week ago, on March 6th 2020. Back in 2008, when I was 26, I had the privilege of interviewing him for French magazine Jazzman … Continue reading

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Creativity and Its Sources / Tom McCarthy’s Remainder

Reading Tom McCarthy’s novel Remainder, which I love, I’m reminded of a realization I had a while ago: pure creativity is closely related to dreams — a mysterious place where new visions are somehow born. You dream, and you see … Continue reading

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Sister Canons in the Goldberg Variations

In Bach’s Goldberg Variations, every third variation is a canon at an increasing interval. The first (Variation 3) is at the unison (the canonic voice repeats the leading voice verbatim), the second (Variation 6) is at the second (the response repeats … Continue reading

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The question, when performing

The question, when performing, is: “Am I putting up with anything right now? Is there something that I’m unhappy with that I haven’t addressed?” For example, awkward posture, which looks uncomfortable, will make the audience uncomfortable too, because it shows … Continue reading

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A Container for Nothingness

Two of my favorite jokes rarely get any laughs. I learned them both as a kid growing up in France. The first goes: Why do Belgians sleep with two water glasses by their bed, one full and one empty? One … Continue reading

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Natural Machines

  The Natural Machines album is out today, Saturday October 27th. I’m bringing the project to Le Poisson Rouge in New York on October 30th. The fine folks there asked me some smart questions ahead of the gig. Thanks to John … Continue reading

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Short songs with absurdly long codas

Form-wise, the Beatles’ Hey Jude is unusual. For 3 minutes and 8 seconds, it’s a conventional song, with melody, varying harmony, A and B sections that repeat in a predictable pattern — what you’d expect from a pop song. Then, for … Continue reading

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The TRAPPIST-1 System: Listening to Planetary Orbits

(Cross-posted from WBGO.org. Thanks to Nate Chinen for inviting me to write this.) With most things, I’ve found, what’s most interesting isn’t the thing in itself, but rather how it relates to other things. In other words, everything is relative, … Continue reading

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Vancouver

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Interview: Improvisation, Mountain Climbing & the Meaning of Life

I’ve got a little time off from touring so I’m cleaning house. While sorting through old papers I came across the interview below. Most of these answers still ring true to me today. It’s fun to hear from past iterations of … Continue reading

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Birdman! Absurdity, theater, music & the importance of madness

I left the movie theater last night, post-Birdman, intensely moved. Rarely has a film gotten to me so directly. Birdman is a wacky movie that seems to be asking a serious question: why live? What keeps us trucking on and floundering and … Continue reading

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Doing It Bachwards: my unexpected Goldberg Variations

(Cross-posted from UCLA’s Ethnomusicological Review. Thanks to AJ Kluth for inviting me to write this piece for the journal.) As I look back over the last ten years and the peculiar journey with J.S. Bach that the time represents for me, … Continue reading

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Lee Konitz on Spontaneity, Originality, Drugs & Playing Sharp

Lee Konitz will be turning 87 in October, and his long and distinguished career as one of the most singular saxophonists in jazz needs no introduction (but if you need one, it’s here). He is known in particular for his … Continue reading

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The New Logic, Objectification, & Bob Dylan

When I got back home to Brooklyn from tour a couple days ago, one of the things I did was buy Logic Pro X, a big update to a music production app I’ve used for a long time. To get a … Continue reading

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Rhythm / Pitch Duality: hear rhythm become pitch before your ears

I just got home from a five-week tour in Europe and finally have some time to do what I call research. The way I see it, being a touring musician is a bit like being a scientist: you spend a … Continue reading

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Long Island

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Normandy

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Algorithmic Art

My dirty little secret is that I can be a pretty serious nerd sometimes. While I was procrastinating from writing a piece for nonet a few months ago, I reopened a computer program I had started working on in 1998 … Continue reading

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Questions from the Atlas

I’m bringing my trio with Ted Poor and Ben Street to the Atlas in Washington DC tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 30th, 8pm). Brad Linde, who curates the jazz series at the Atlas and is also a saxophonist/bandleader of renown on … Continue reading

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Montana

 

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Konitz Playlist

A few months ago, JazzTimes asked me to choose ten tracks from Lee Konitz’ recorded work that stand out to me in his career. Here’s what I came up with. Lee Konitz Playlist – Dan Tepfer Lee Konitz started recording in … Continue reading

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All Kinds of Music-Making

The composer Anna Clyne and I got together yesterday evening to catch up, and since we were at my place, and there were microphones lying around, we decided to make a track. I met Anna at the University of Edinburgh … Continue reading

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Groucho Marx vs. Irving Berlin

Everyone needs to have a copy of The Groucho Letters. Groucho Marx, aside from being very funny, was a great letter writer: he corresponded with many of the memorable people of his day, including (incredibly) T.S. Eliot. This collection is on … Continue reading

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It’s also about the notes

I dropped by 5th Estate in Brooklyn tonight to play some sax at the jam session, and had a conversation there that brought up a nice memory: it was shortly after I started playing with Lee Konitz, in early 2007. … Continue reading

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Paul Motian, 1931 – 2011

I have a really clear memory of dropping in on a trio set with Paul Bley, Gary Peacock and Paul Motian while passing through New York when I was 17 or so. It was Motian who struck me the most: … Continue reading

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Content, form, and weirdness

I’m a longtime fan of Pedro Almódovar — it’s hard not to be if you grew up in France — so I couldn’t wait to see his latest film, The Skin I Live In. I saw it last night and … Continue reading

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All I Heard Was Nothing?

Sometimes nothing is a lot to hear. And other times you hear a lot, but it adds up to nothing. You know what I mean? At any rate, here I am, blogging. Or so it would seem. Stay tuned.

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