Music: Lawrence Blatt
Lawrence Blatt's Fibonacci’s Dream
Lawrence Blatt is quickly moving into the upper echelon of finger-picking acoustic guitarists, but with a background that includes a degree in microbiology, he also has deep insights into science and mathematics. On his second instrumental recording, Fibonacci’s Dream, Blatt combines his passions for music and math into a tribute to one of history’s most important mathematicians.
Leonardo Fibonacci, a 13th Century Italian, published a pivotal book, “Liber Abaci” (Book of Calculation) when he was 32. He introduced Europeans to the use of Arabic numerals (the system we use today) and discovered the “Golden Ratio” that appears frequently in nature (petals on a sunflower, seeds in a pinecone, a nautilus shell or the cochlea in human ears).
Much musical theory follows Fibonacci mathematics, so Blatt decided to take it a step further on his recording and consciously apply math structures and sequences to his compositions by utilizing numerical ratios in his chord patterns, repeated phrases and tonal intervals. All music is naturally built on a mathematical foundation, so Blatt’s tunes do not sound academic or sterile, but rather melodic, colorful, accessible and exhilarating. While the song structures may have a mathematical consistency, Blatt points out that the emotions within each composition are inspired by people, places and life experiences.
“One thing I learned from my biology studies is the axiom that simple rules lead to complex behaviors,” explains Blatt.
“So by integrating some of Fibonacci’s math into my music, I started with fairly simple structural rules. However, the result was music that became not only more complex, but more intrinsically-beautiful in its cohesiveness.”
Blatt’s fluid acoustic sound sometimes created purely on a single guitar and other times featuring several layered and entwining instruments can feature subtle counter-melodies, rhythmic interplays or even multiple parts played simultaneously on one guitar (lead, rhythm and bass at the same time, for example). Blatt’s exceptional technique mixes delicate nuances one moment with passionate fire the next. On the album, Blatt played all of the instruments -- both steel-string and nylon-string acoustic guitars, acoustic bass, an Hawaiian 8-string ukulele, a 128-year-old bowl-back mandolin, two small South American 10-string guitars (a charango and a ronroco), piano (on one tune) and ethnic percussion. He also composed, arranged and produced all the music. Blatt’s style bridges many genres including new age, neo-classical, folk and world music with subtle, hinted-at elements including Latin, Mid-Eastern, jazz, bluegrass, Hawaiian and pop-rock.
A rising star in the world of instrumental music and acoustic guitar finger-picking, Lawrence Blatt won an international radio LifeStyle Music Award and was named last year’s “Best New Artist” by New Age Reporter for his debut CD, the Top 10 airplay Out of the Woodwork. In addition, the album was selected as a finalist for the 2007 Independent Music Awards’ Best New Age Album. Meanwhile, Fibonacci’s Dream is already #2 on the international NAR chart. Both CDs can be purchased online at his own website (lawrenceblatt.com), CDbaby.com, Amazon.com, Tradebit.com, Musicishere.com, and digital download locations such as iTunes and Napster.
Blatt has studied under guitar players and recording artists such as Laurence Juber, Pierre Bensusan and Brian Gore. Following the technique used by those teachers, Blatt picks the strings using his fingertips rather than utilizing real or fake fingernails. Blatt uses both standard and open tunings on his guitars. Blatt also believes in “complete takes” when recording (rather than seeking perfection with patched-together solos), and does only minimal studio manipulation of the sound after it leaves his instrument.
Lawrence grew up initially in the Los Angeles-area (Van Nuys) through grade school, and then moved to Carmel, Indiana, where he attended junior and senior high school. He began classical violin studies at age eight (immersed in Mozart, Bach, Mendelssohn and Bernard Heiden) which continued through his senior year (although Lawrence also played classical bass for two years and learned basic piano skills). While still in junior high, he became the youngest member of the Indianapolis Youth Symphony (conducted by Jackson Wiley). In addition, when Blatt was twelve, he began learning guitar, and over the next decade became a part of the Indiana folk scene as a singer-songwriter-guitarist while continuing to study classical music.
In high school, Blatt was influenced by singer-songwriters such as Neil Young, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Carole King, Jesse Colin Young, Van Morrison, Dan Fogelberg, America and Boz Scaggs. Blatt went on to graduate from Indiana University where he studied both microbiology and music (Leonard Bernstein was on the adjunct faculty giving lectures and concerts).
Lawrence’s musical interest expanded to include artists such as John Lee Hooker, Al Jarreau, Joe Jackson and Chicago. Blatt moved to Los Angeles and earned his MBA and PhD degrees in science (“it was something I enjoyed and had an aptitude for”), and listened to a lot of folk (Steve Earle, Steve Goodman, John Prine, Lyle Lovett) and jazz (Larry Carlton, Brandon Fields).
Blatt went to Boulder, Colorado, for five years, began his “serious music career,” and delved deeply into finger-style playing. In addition to studying with Juber at this time, Blatt was influenced by other finger-pickers including Dave Wilcox, Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges, Ottmar Liebert and The Netherlands’ Harry Sacksioni. In 2001 Blatt moved to San Francisco (where he now lives) and started performing regularly, recording and studying intensely with Brian Gore.
Shortly after Blatt released his first CD, Out of the Woodwork, several tunes received airplay on John Rothman’s current-affairs nationally-syndicated radio program, and listener response and sales were immediate. The album went on to be one of the most-played albums in its genre on radio stations around the world for several months.
The title tune was chosen to appear on the compilation CDs Care Packages (distributed to American troops in Iraq) and GOA Chill Zone. “Here We Go” was licensed to appear in a Tom Green film (“Shred II”); “Under the Sun” appeared on the CD No Cover’s Best New Bands; “Z Squared” was included on the Java for Javelins compilation; and “Keiki Lullaby” will be used on the PBS/Showtime-TV magazine show “This American Life.”
On Fibonacci’s Dream, Blatt’s ability to perform multiple parts on a guitar without overdubs is showcased on the tunes “I’m Leaving Now” (influenced by Lindsay Buckingham), “Bern ‘The Bear’,” “Just Before Dawn,” and two that include a little percussion added -- “Five Nights” and “La Selva (The Rainforest)” (featuring the tiny South American ronroco).
But in addition to these single-guitar spotlights, Blatt also creates wondrous multiple-guitar arrangements on the Latin-influenced “Una Vida (One Life)” with its 35-second solo charango coda, “Catalina,” “Fibonacci’s Dream” and “Song For Chava” (an homage to Blatt’s Eastern European heritage).
Several of the pieces develop interplay between the guitar and bass, such as “In A Heartbeat” and “A Little More Sunshine.” “‘In A Heartbeat’ is example of two guitars talking to one another,” Blatt explains, “like a first and second violin in an orchestra, where the melody only emerges when the two are playing together.” “I Remember When,” written in Hawaii using a “taro-patch tuning,” incorporates an eight-string ukulele. The album ends with a tune dedicated to “the senselessness of war.” “Move Um Out” moves from delicate harmonics to a marching pace and, following several brief lulls, into frenetic strumming and percussion.
“I didn’t set out to make an album of any particular genre. My music includes simple tunes, ones that are harmonically and rhythmically complex, some with a modern-sounding edge, and others with a mysterious quality and feeling that could have been written in the 18th century. As a solo instrumentalist, my guitar is my voice, and I have a lot I want to say.”
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