Spaghetti Valley is the result of 9 months of work, my fondness of Spaghetti Bolognese, and almost all of my musical influences to date.
The idea for a concept album about Spaghetti Bolognese came from a brainstorm sometime near the end of 2012. My friend Wesley Shoare was complimenting me on a certain track he had heard on my Soundcloud, and he told me he’d like to hear an entire album in that style. What eventually resulted from this was far from that, but it got me thinking. There were lots of wiggly lines and meandering melodies in that track, and its atmosphere and rhythm reminded me of how I imagine it would feel to ride on a dragon’s back through a picturesque valley, say somewhere like the Lake District. The wiggly lines reminded me of Spaghetti, and I thought; ‘Let’s write an album with lots of Spaghetti in it!’
Shortly after this spark, I realised I would need more guidance than this, unless I was content to write music that was just a pale imitation of Ron Jarzombek’s curliest moments. I don’t think I’d even be able to do justice to music like that with my current guitar skills. So I thought; ‘What accompanies Spaghetti in real life? Why, Bolognese sauce, chilli, parmesan, and context!’ I invented a narrative in my head that would explain a reason to write about all of these sensations that I love. I came up with seven scenes:
-Approaching the end of a hike on a cold autumn day in a picturesque location.
-Entering a house, warming up, and drinking tea.
-Arranging my ingredients upon the worktop and getting far too excited by it.
-Cooking the Bolognese, enjoying its upward-rising heat from out of the pan and the intense smells it brings into the room.
-Serving the meal to myself as if it were a royal ceremony.
-Reminiscing with a full stomach on how fabulously tasty the meal was.
In March 2013, I was lucky enough to see John Scofield perform at the Colston Hall, whose jazz prowess (Particularly his encore, the Tennessee Waltz) inspired me to write Spaghetti Valley Part 6 – a jazz waltz that would describe the feeling of gazing upon my meal in beautiful anticipation, and also break up the dense nature of the music before and after it.
I was coming up with potential themes from the beginning of 2013 – planning this large piece of music was a fun project to do in downtime from studying for my A Levels. I have fond memories of writing the wiggly melody first heard in part 3 with my guitar in a hotel room while visiting York for an interview at the University.
I also had plans to involve many of my musical friends that play instruments I don’t play myself, like violins, violas, cellos, double basses, clarinets and saxophones. After getting their approval to participate in the project, I began to write music with them in mind.
In Spaghetti Valley, the wonderful guest musicians arrive at part 3 – where the meal begins to exist in the world and not just my mind – and leave at the end of part 7 when it has all been eaten. This decision gave all of the new tonal colours an association with the meal, suitably glorifying it – as well as reducing the difficulty of scheduling lots of recording sessions that I would have had if they were on every part.
In order to clarify my options, I wrote my own short orchestration guide for all of the instruments I had at my disposal, and I also bought a 26-stave A3 manuscript pad, with the intention to write the entire thing on paper. On using paper on a whim for some minor compositions recently, (as opposed to say, writing music while producing/recording it, as I had become accustomed to on my previous more electronic albums, or writing entirely using Sibelius, as I had done for my A Level compositions and ‘I Love You’) I noticed that it forced me to consider the worth of every note I wrote more carefully. In the time it takes to write a bar of music for a large ensemble, on paper, you have time to ponder whether every idea you write is the best choice, and what alternatives you have. It’s an option technically available in the previous writing methods, although not as obvious, since the other ways encourage a mentality of ‘make a decision, apply it immediately and worry about it later.’
To represent the cooking and eating of a Spaghetti Bolognese, as is done in parts 3-7, I wrote four themes, each of which are relatively plainly exposed in part 3. The first represented onions, the second mincemeat, the third sauce and the fourth spaghetti. In part 4, they’re all developed, as the Bolognese cooks, and in part 5, when they’re served, the onion has lost its edge and gained a major 7th, the meat has turned from 4/4 to 6/8, the sauce has melted into the other themes, and the spaghetti has turned into a swung piano solo. All of them have also gone up a semitone because they are cooked. In part 7, they all turn pentatonic and play in counterpoint with each other as mouthfuls are consumed containing every element at once.
I have many happy memories of recording this, such as the time I was recording myself hitting a chopping board with a knife for part 3. I started by chopping the unusable part of a pepper, watching it fly about the room, before I realised it sounded better if you didn’t have something on the chopping board to start with.
There was also the time me and Cameron were recording Bari Saxes and I was cracking up listening to him play really loud long notes. ‘I promise I am not only using you as a foghorn!’ I assured him, but we both knew that was his primary purpose.
I learned a lot about other instruments, such as, the mechanics of the ‘break’ on a clarinet, the difference between ‘on the string’ and ‘off the string’, and how surprisingly easy it is to forget that string players need more than a beat to change from pizz to arco.
In summary, Spaghetti Bolognese is really tasty. Enjoy!
released September 20, 2013
Will Tuckwell - Guitar, Bass, Piano, Percussion, Production
Annalise Lam - Violin, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet (3, 4, 5, 7)
Carlos Rodriguez - Violin (3, 4, 5, 7)
Tegwen Hammersley - Viola (4, 5)
Callam Neville - Cello (4, 5, 7)
Freddie Draper - Double Bass, Electric Bass (5, 6, 7)
Cameron Alsop - Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax, Percussion (3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Solomon MacKilligin - Percussion (4)
Christina Daisley, Martha Mooney - Vocals (5)
Written and produced by Will Tuckwell
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