Aaron Grad | The Father Book

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United States - Washington

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Classical: Contemporary Avant Garde: Electro-Acoustic Moods: Featuring Guitar
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The Father Book

by Aaron Grad

A suite for guitar and electronics, inspired by a clavichord built by the composer's late father
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Prologue
3:34 album only
2. Youth
3:34 album only
3. Angst
5:17 album only
4. Knowledge
1:55 album only
5. Love
6:10 album only
6. Games
1:45 album only
7. Mystery
4:33 album only
8. Recognition
3:42 album only
9. Quiet
4:59 album only
10. Epilogue
1:30 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Preparations for The Father Book began, in a sense, in 1967, when John Grad, a nineteen- year-old music major at Hamilton College, built a clavichord from a kit. In time he went to law school, got married, and had three children (I am the youngest), and through the years his clavichord languished in the attic of our house in Alexandria, Virginia. By high school I was immersed in jazz guitar, and would not necessarily have cared about an ethereal keyboard instrument from the Baroque era, but I fell in love with a recording of songs from Porgy and Bess, featuring guitarist Joe Pass and the great pianist Oscar Peterson playing, of all things, a clavichord. Inspired by those duets, my father and I tried to revive his old clavichord, but years of warping and cracking prevented it from staying in tune for more than a few seconds.

Not long after we relegated the clavichord back to the attic, my father was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died in 1998, and a few months later I graduated from high school and my family sold the house in Virginia. I went to New York to study jazz, and the clavichord went into storage.
I moved to Brooklyn in 2001, and, in need of a desk, I remembered the clavichord. Compact, sturdy enough to hold a laptop, and free, it was ideal apartment furniture. I discovered that I could access the keys even with the lid closed, and I developed a habit of exploring its strange, out-of-tune sounds while idling at my computer (this was the era of dial-up internet).

The otherworldly beauty of this accidental music inspired me to record about eight hours of plucking, scraping and pounding inside the clavichord onto my portable DAT recorder. And because the instrument is so quiet, the boosted recording level captured myriad other sounds on tape, including my breathing, screeching truck brakes outside, and the church bells across the street. I held onto those tapes for years, unsure how to proceed, until I formulated a plan for a large-scale suite combining live guitar and processed recordings. It would be a duet with my younger self and, in some inexplicable way, a communion with my late father.

I began composing The Father Book in earnest in 2009. The piece combines a through- composed part for seven-string electric guitar with an accompanying track derived entirely from the clavichord. Each movement involves at least one sound from those original improvisations recorded in 2001, but I later recorded much more material, and I also expanded some sounds with electronic processing. The ten short movements form something of a life cycle; it is partly a reflection of my father, partly a self-portrait, and in its broadest sense a meditation on a universal arc. The Father Book takes its title from a book my mother co-wrote around the time I was born—an instruction manual for new fathers.



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