frank stemper

for Computer, synthesizers, samplers, and processors plus live jazz pianist (29.5 mins.)
Commissioned by Robbie Stokes

and the Carbondale Bureau of Tourism for "Balloonfest", September, 1994.



I really tried to compose something that would be universally “up-lifting” for the spectators who came to watch all the hot air balloons rise into the morning mist.  However, the discovery of using digital processing as a thematic device (rather than just a decoration) ruined everything.  Simply,
Riding the Wind is just an arrangement of nice original tune, in D minor, I think – but then it gets out of hand.

Around 1990 an "older" student began sitting in on my sophomore theory class.  Robbie Stokes was a small town boy, who had tasted a little fame on the West Coast, but decided to return to his home town and piece out a living.  And that he did.  He became the go-to guy, sound engineer, for whatever kind of show-biz deal you've got going.  And that he's still doing, and he's older than I am.  How he carries those gigundo speakers up several flights of stairs, sets up all the equipent, checks for the best sound, and then stays up so - LATE - running the board for whatever band is putting on the Ritz, I'll never know.  Every Night!  Perhaps this piece became a homage to such a guy.

And now he, like me, is a grandfather.

Oh.  And did I mention that he plays guitar?  Yeah.  He's a Rock n Roller.  And he's good.  Playing with several versions of St. Stephen's Blues Band for 40-50 years, among others, he can do it all: play, sing, solo, engage the crowd!  Ahhhh Robbie.  And, like just a few of these self-taught rockers (Blue-grassers, new agers, etc.) Robbie has an ear.  I remember him getting me several jazz gigs - the student pimping the professor!  He took his 10%.  I didn't complain.  He once got me a gig at some fund raiser for what-ever ——— it may have been something for Senator Paul Simon (the bow tie guy), who had retired to Southern Illinois and was one of my colleagues!  Anyway, it was a 5 or 6 piece jazz group, and I was the pianist.   The group did the usual jamming.  However, during the third set Robbie, who was running sound, came up and strapped himself into his guitar.  The group continued as they had, playing standards.  This music was far different than what Robbie was used to, but he used his ear and gradually started joining in.  Within just a few minutes he was taking off, soloing in the more harmonically chromatic style.  He was nudging Joe Pass a little.  A Natural. 

One day Robbie came up to me after class and offered me a gig - to create some of my "weird" music for the upcoming Balloon Fest.  Good $$$ too.  So I accepted, and Riding the Wind is the result.  Robbie said, "well, maybe not too weird."  I really did tried to compose something that would be universally “up-lifting” for the spectators, who came to watch all the hot air balloons rise into the morning mist. 

I love getting out of hand.

(It starts getting out of hand around 18 minutes into the piece, and then beginning at 18:24 the digital processing takes over.)

27 Feb 2018