Back when I was a small child, my parents played quite a bit Mannheim Steamroller in the house. In particular, I remember listening to the Fresh Aire series (not this Fresh Air series, though I listen to that quite a bit these days) first on record albums then on cassettes as I played quietly in my room with my Legos (I was about 6 years old at the time). This was long before the series of Christmas albums out that Mannheim Steamroller is perhaps best known for now. The first four Fresh Aire albums had a seasonal theme. That is, the first was spring, Fresh Aire II’s theme was summer, and so on.
I put Fresh Aire IV in the CD player back in December when I needed a break from all of the holiday music, but still wanted to listen to something wintery. As the third track, “Interlude 7” came on, I nearly stopped dead in my tracks.
Sound vaguely familiar? I posted a song last December that I composed, or rather improvised, called “#37: Improvisational Nocturne” with very similar features: the (nearly) solo piano, the quiet start, the uneven tempo, the swelling and diminishing dynamics, the undulating bass line and dissonant chords that bring to mind a midnight caravan in a distant land… even the major chord at the very end. Heck, even the names are similar in that they both contain a number and the name of a type of song.
Sure, I’ve listened to the album a number of times since my childhood, but none of that was intentional. Granted, in some ways the similarity was inevitable. The songs were created specifically with a wintery theme in mind. I’ve never taken piano lessons so most of the bass lines I make up sound like that – playing the octaves to create a fuller sound – to compensate for my inability to come up with adequate chords on the fly (which also explains the dissonant chords, too, now that I think about it…). I’ve historically had few friends with musical tendencies interested in playing together in a band, so most of my playing is solo anyway. And the song title? It was the 37th recording I’ve made on my Roland Virtual Studio and a nod to the Dave Matthews Band’s tendency to leave some of their songs untitled (e.g. #34, #41).