Berklee’s Planet MicroJam Institute
At the crossroads of new beats, microtonal harmonies, Eastern melodic inflections, and improvisation concepts, new musical ideas are on the horizon. Planet MicroJam collides sonic aesthetics from our increasingly connected global village to create music that sounds like a Gauguin painting—a raw, powerful, and extremely colorful mix of Eastern and Western elements.
David and Planet Microjam Students perform “Kashmir” at Berklee:
Growing up in two different cultures, David “FuZe” Fiuczynski was born in the United States and grew up in Germany, where he was always interested in mixing and “fuzing” different music elements. His music is often described as unclassifiable, challenging, and invigorating. In 1994, he collaborated with keyboardist John Medeski of Medeski Martin & Wood on the album Lunar Crush, a tribute to Tony Williams’s Lifetime band. His recent music melds traditional melodic elements from the Middle East, Asia, India, and Eastern Europe, with rock, funk, electronica, microtonal classical harmonies, and other styles. Fiuczynski leads the underground cult band Screaming Headless Torsos and has worked with Jack DeJohnette, Rudresh Mahanthappa, John Zorn, Stewart Copeland, Meshell Ndegeocello, Bernie Worrell, Dennis Chambers, and many more. He has performed at festivals worldwide.
Fiuczynski is a Guggenheim Fellow and plays double neck-fretted, fretless, and 1/4 tone guitars in order to interpret and compose microtonal melodies and harmonies.
“Much of my musical inspiration comes from non-musical sources: paintings and East Asian and Arabic calligraphy and architecture. I love the colors of Matisse, Van Gogh, Gauguin, the Fauvists and German expressionists, the jagged explosions of Peter Voulkos’s pottery, and the delicate restraint of Taoist poetry. I also really admire musicians with a unique and fiery sound like Eric Dolphy, Nina Hagen, and Don Pullen.”
Read about David Fiuczynski’s Guggenheim Fellowship, which encompasses the concept of the Planet Microjam Institute, and the concert premiering “Flam!”, his Guggenheim composition.
Performances, Recordings, and Collaborations
Berklee Planet MicroJam Institute performs a traditional piece at the Tbilisi Jazz Festival in Georgia. Described by David Fiuzcynski, the institute’s artistic director, as “the prodigal son returning,” keyboardist Giorgi Mikazde arranged traditional folk pieces such as “Voisa.” He notated them to be performed using the MicroJam method for an ensemble that does not use traditional notation, and fused them with a “Weather Report”-influenced backing.
In collaboration with world-renowned jazz and fusion drummer Jojo Mayer, pianist Utar displays proficiency with groove and jazz within microtonality. A newfound faculty member at Berklee, the MicroJam alumnus is also versed in classical music, composing microtonal piano pieces as well as entire symphonic suites.
Dywane “MonoNeon” Thomas
In “1/6 Tone Catharsis”, MonoNeon, Dywane ‘MonoNeon’ Thomas , who is now collaborating with Prince, is using his knowledge from the Planet MicroJam Institute to invent his own style of Southern soul.
“News to Me” is a piece composed by a MicroJam alumnus before he entered the institute.
Microtonal Grooves (ENGB 401-001)
In this class we will experiment with microtonal arrangements of Western classical, Middle Eastern, and other non-Western and jazz/fusion compositions. Joe Maneri’s 72 equal temperament octave notation system will be explained. We will start with a selection from the following compositions: “Eclipse” (Mingus); “Madoka Blue” (Fiuczynski); Carrillo quarter-tone string quartets; H’aba quarter-tone etudes; Turkish, Arabic, and Chinese melodies; Beethoven fragments; “MoonRing” (3/4-tone diminished mode); and “Apprehension” (Fiuczynski). Students will have a working knowledge of notation, Western classical microtonal history, intonation, and ways of soloing and comping in a microtonal chord-scale context. We will also experiment with dance hall, drum ‘n’ bass, reggaeton, merengueton, house, 2-step, 32nd note hi-hat grooves, hip-hop, go-go, clipped and bounce beats, and new experimental beats created by students. For more information go to the Planet MicroJam Institute page on berklee.edu
(above: Joe Maneri; Planet Microjam Institute at the Tblisi Jazz Festival 2014;
and a Fuze custom guitar.)