Silencio -The title track of Silencio was created late one night, alone at the piano. The title came from a photograph that my wife, Gretchen Peters, took on the wall of La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the central cathedral in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico. That photo became the cover of the album.
Prague - A nod to the Adagio Assai movement of Ravel’s Concerto In G, one of my favorite classical pieces. “Prague” was dedicated to a life-long friend I met in High School. He was born in Prague and passed away unexpectedly while I was working on the album. I think about him every day.
The Ice Storm - This piece started with a rhythmic idea I came up with that reminds me of some of Philip Glass' work, and is also reminiscent of a track on my first album, The Crossing, called "Exeter Cathedral". I first recorded the rhythm track on piano, then added a melody line doubled on accordion and glockenspiel. A simple baritone guitar part rounded out the track. When I first played it for Gretchen, she said it reminded her of riding out an ice storm in a cozy house with a fire blazing. There was my title.
October Waltz - This was the first track I composed for this album, over two years before the rest of it was finished. It was originally the title of the album, until we saw the silencio photograph Gretchen shot in Mexico. After I recorded the piano track, John Catchings came and played some cello lines that highlight the melody perfectly.
Escape Velocity - My son Brennan came up with the hypnotic rhythmic pattern that flows throughout this piece. It sounded to me like a Steve Reich-type idea using constant motion. We ended up co-writing this together. I wrote the melody that floats above the rhythm pattern, then Brennan added multiple guitar tracks to build it up further. The title came from the title of a book by Charles Portis that Tom Russell gave me. The track seems to take off dynamically in the mid-section, suggesting the book title.
Belgian Afternoon - This piece was influenced in both rhythm and melody by one of my oldest and strongest influences, Erik Satie. Gretchen suggested the title as it reminded her of lazy Summer afternoons in one of our favorite countries.
Paper Stars - I wanted to explore some chromaticism on this album and this whimsical piece gave me a chance to do that. Gretchen came up with the title as it reminded her of a child cutting out paper stars.
Aubade - This title came from a Billy Collins poem of the same title, that I came across while working on Silencio. I had to look the word up, and instantly knew I was going to have to find a place to use it. Aubade means a "morning love song", as opposed to an evening love song, a serenade. The music reminds me of some of the pieces I wrote for my first album, The Crossing.
The Violet Hour - I worked on this melody more than perhaps any other melody on the album. I wrote it out and then spent many days rewriting it. It reminds me of a piece on my previous album, Paradiso. I can't wait to play this one live. Gretchen came up with the title, as she did on half of the album.
Sanctuary - Because so much of Silencio was recorded rubato, or not in strict time, stacking multiple piano tracks was a tricky business, and I had to rely completely on feel. This piece was especially risky as it floated out of time from start to finish, and the placement of individual melody notes was absolutely critical. Those melody notes are highlighted by John Catching's cello lines on the bridge. "Sanctuary" suggests warmth and safety, which is what Gretchen thought of when she first heard this piece and gave it its name.
Paper Stars (dream sequence) - I recorded a version of "Paper Stars" with multiple piano tracks after I recorded the original accordion/glockenspiel version. I wasn't sure which one I was going to use, until mix engineer Chad Brown convinced me to use both. He added the layers of reverb on to this one, giving it a dreamlike quality.
October Waltz (reprise) - It's been a tradition on my albums to end with a reprise version of an earlier track. This time I started with a short accordion-only version of "October Waltz". I was going to leave it at that, but when John Catchings came over to overdub cello on the other pieces, I let him have a go at this one. He added a whole new dimension to it. I then called on muliti-instrumentalist Jim Hoke to add clarinet, one of my favorite instruments. Things took an unexpected twist when Jim started playing some jazz-flavored glissandos to get to the high notes. It makes me think of early Duke Ellington, film-noir, and Woody Allen movies. It turned out to be one of the more interesting tracks on the album, and a fitting way to end Silencio.