That's Optionality!

In this article, Edwin Thor discusses DonParagon's newly released album That's Optionality. Edwin describes how Don's work aims to express 'optionality' in many musical ways, rather than merely as a concept that is focused on in the lyrics of Don's songs. Quintessence plans to do Don's music more justice and to put musical optionality in the hands of the listener.


Quintessence's Events

Quintessence likes to organise events or to give presentations at other events. The picture below shows Quintessence's Managing Director, Ben Mettes, presenting DonParagon's Vision of the Future at an event organised by Quintessence in November 1995. At such presentations DonParagon's music is often heard; in fact, Don rather sees his Vision expressed through his music, than in articles.

In the article Optionality: beyond Law and Order, Ben Mettes says that Don rather sees his Vision expressed in the lyrics of his music, than in articles. But even more than that, Don likes to express optionality in musical ways, rather than to focus the attention on optionality as a recurring concept in the lyrics of his songs. As Don once said: "One has to know a language before one can understand what is meant by words; one has to accept and learn standardized codes and symbols and grammatical rules; one has to agree on common meaning of words. By contrast, music is instantaneously accessible for most people around the world, without prior education". This is why Don prefers his music to be played at such events, rather than to see his Vision described in papers presented and handed out at such events.

Optionality in music

There are many musical ways in which DonParagon likes to express optionality. On the newly released album That's Optionality, there are two versions of Don's song Optionality, that is what we want. Don has used the lyrics of this song and has played around with the music, effectively creating two different songs. The album further contains alternative versions of earlier songs, i.e. another version of Liberty, of Optionality, of Improvisation Time and a number of new versions of the song What we want is Optionality. This way, Don shows optionality in music, not just by giving different interpretations of the same song or by improvising on earlier tunes, but also by making entirely different music on the same lyrics.

Don's music is dynamic, Don regards his work as evolving and improvises all the time. Don will rarely play a song twice in exactly the same way. Don is therefore reluctant to see his work published because this makes his work part of commercially available static content that is detached from the situation in which it was made. Although Don has played for larger audiences, an audience of millions listening to music in their cars or at home is clearly something different from a live audience. It is with some reluctance that Don has allowed Quintessence to release these albums. Other reasons for this reluctance are partly described in the article Improvisation in Music; in short, on a piano tuned in accordance with the equal tempered system, notes sound the same that Don meant to give a different pitch. On the albums released by Quintessence, Don sings and plays the piano, but Don plans to use synthesizer keyboards on future releases.

Quintessence's Plans

Quintessence plans to issue Improvisation as a multi-media production, adding musical examples of such optionality to the guidelines given in the article Improvisation. In private sessions, Don often used such guidelines to get people to compose and perform music, without learning music from traditional methods. Once Improvisation has been released people will be able to try out Don's approach to music for themselves.

As mentioned before, Quintessence plans to re-release earlier songs, once recordings using synthesizers have been completed. Media such as the Internet and DVD allow Don's songs to be released together with animation, texts, etc. This also allows people to order tracks in various ways, e.g. in the time-order in which lyrics have appeared in this magazine. Even more interesting is inclusion of a 'software synthesizer', which will allow people to listen to Don's music in versions they can choose themselves, say, by changing the settings that make up a particular voice. This strategy fits in more with the nature of Don's music. It effectively allows listeners to create entirely new versions of Don's songs, it puts such musical optionality in the hands of the listener. That's optionality!




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