It’s like being submerged beneath the surface of the ocean or a large lake experiencing the otherworldliness, the sense of new, the out of the ordinary, that’s where I try to go with each song.”
This highly personal, searching aesthetic is what drives New York-based pianist and composer John Bickerton. His latest recorded effort, Submerged, is the first release on the musician-run, independent new music label, Simple Harmonic Motion. On Submerged, John invites listeners on an imaginative journey using elements of free jazz and contemporary piano technique.
The record is a set of six performances including highly transformed readings of Led Zeppelin’s Going to California, Neil Young’s Sugar Mountain and the Beatles’ Within You Without You. An original interpretation of Ornette Coleman's Mob Job points to John's inclination toward experimentation and spontaneity.
He describes, “Each performance begins with a simple, tonal melody which gradually morphs into an open and vast sound world. I was after musical performances where the mix of tonality and a free chromaticism seem organic, and the resulting language feels natural.
Born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, in 1959, John Bickerton began studying piano at age six, under the direction of Quebecois sisters at St. Mary's Academy. His many years of intense study of piano and composition, first at Carnegie-Mellon University (BFA), and later at Boston University (MFA), led him to explore not only classical forms but also The New York School movement, including the work of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Earle Brown. Recalling these formative years, Bickerton explains, one of my most influential teachers was the Spanish composer Leonardo Balada. He encouraged us to compose aleatory music - music that introduces elements of chance with respect to pitch and duration. Bickerton also credits Joanne Brackeen, with whom he studied jazz piano. An excellent teacher, she had a way of building his confidence and challenging him at the same time. Prodding him to work on his piano technique, she would say - your ears are ahead of your hands. Her admiration of Bickerton's compositions helped him remain faithful to his voice.