Timothy Cooper Improvises On Solo Piano
Timothy Cooper strives to bring enlightenment to the world through his art as well as his job as Executive Director of Worldrights, the human rights advocacy organization. His goal of calling attention to today's problems, and offering solace and solutions, is evident in his latest artistic endeavor, the solo piano recording Light on the Water, which is entirely improvisational and follows in the line of jazz tradition by artists such as Keith Jarrett (an early influence on Cooper).
The album, inspired by the tragic terrorist acts of 9/11 and the subsequent healing process that the American public went through, is available for purchase at the record company website (www.new-piano-age.com), online retailers such as www.cdbaby.com and www.amazon.com, and various digital download locations including iTunes.
Cooper, who lives in Washington, DC, creates thought-provoking art in several fields. In addition to being a pianist and composer, he is a novelist, photographer and film-maker. His first novel, World One, was about "nuclear war with a happy ending when the entire planet finally learns to live together in peace." His second novel, 2008, deals with Jesus Christ returning to earth and running for President. "This time around instead of being a religious leader he becomes a politician. It's a comedy."
With his visual art, Cooper has created his Worldlights collection (www.world-lights.com), photographs taken all over the world showing the globalization of culture and the exultation of commercialism. The photos are placed in large-format lightbox triptychs that emphasize light and shadow "to symbolize the dramatic tension between consumerism and humanism, and the diminishing of individualism." Cooper also has long been involved with film-making and his most recent projects are three documentaries on human rights ("China Rising" will debut in the autumn of 2008) from his company Freedom's Gate Films.
Beyond shining a spotlight on world problems through the use of art, Cooper also heads Worldrights (www.world-rights.org), whose mission is "to promote and protect human rights under principles of international law, recognizing that a violation of human rights anywhere is a violation of human rights everywhere." The organization makes appearances on behalf of political and religious prisoners, disenfranchised populations and victims of racial discrimination. Worldrights utilizes diplomacy and legal petitions, lobbies governing bodies, and uses speeches, lectures and publicity to disseminate information and build awareness. Cooper has spoken before numerous international human rights organizations including various United Nations' committees.
"I want to help our global society any way I can to make it more peaceful and harmonious, " explains Cooper, "and another way to do that is to release positive and peaceful music into the world." The Light on the Water CD "represents two essential ingredients of life – light and water; and more philosophically it stands for my deep hope that out of the darkness can come light, out of tragedy can come renewal and rebirth. I began recording these pieces during the week following 9/11 when there was a lot of pain and tension in the air, and I could hear jet-fighter planes screaming over Washington, DC, even in the middle of the night. But after contemplating the depressing aspects of those terrorist acts, I also understood there was a positive side to the events as people bonded together with a sense of patriotism and brotherhood, spirituality increased, and society began rebuilding in many ways. I continued recording new music for the CD for several years."
Light on the Water contains 19 instrumental tunes recorded as solo piano improvisational pieces without overdubs. "Some of the tracks begin with progressions or melodic motifs that I had played around with lightly on previous occasions, but had never fully explored. Other pieces were simply a sudden musical expression being entirely created at the very instant of recording it. But all of the material is improvisational from the standpoint that it was not worked out in advance or written down. I never knew where the music was going, but let it reflect the emotions I was feeling in that moment."
The CD begins with "Worldscapes" which is "a hopeful clarion call for global unity." "Why" asks "why the destruction, the catastrophic deaths, and the lack of resolution of the conflict that caused it?" "Rising" is "deeply optimistic that despite wars and attacks, we will overcome and make a better tomorrow." The piece "Soundings" represents "sounding out how we are going to move forward as individuals and as a people to deal with tragedy." "Curve of Madness" expresses "the sheer terror and confusion we felt about the events, but also the wonder at why some people on this planet would want to do what they did to others. But the next tune makes the statement that simple gestures of love, goodwill and kindness are needed, and maybe peace begins with 'One Smile'."
The tune "Open Soul" characterizes "the need to listen to other people and to try to understand them." "Autumn Tears" turns to "the on-going mourning and grieving" the terrorist acts brought. In the aftermath, everyone faced "The Struggles, " "how do we cope with this and what is my duty to my country and to the world?" "Glad Sorrows" sums up "the conflicting emotions we felt for the sacrifice and heroism of the firefighters and rescue workers as well as the citizens on the plane who fought back." With "Ribbons of Starlight, " "I was thinking about the light shining on our planet from throughout the universe and that we must never forget that what we do here on Earth matters." "Solstice" expresses "the need to get back on the trail of a united human destiny." The recording ends with "Advent, " "a call for shaping a better future."
Cooper began his musical career at age seven singing in the choir at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in Washington, DC. At the Washington National Cathedral, one of the largest sanctuaries in the country, he spent two years as a chorister in the junior choir and then moved up to the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys while also attending and singing at the St. Albans School for Boys. "I received a very deep exposure to choral and sacred music, and I got to sing many of the best compositions by the top composers from the 16th Century through the modern era. It was very, very rigorous training because we rehearsed five days a week, sang programs four times during the week, and then performed at two services on Sunday. We also toured the United States and United Kingdom, and recorded several albums."
When he was 17 and 18, Cooper traveled extensively and began taking photographs, primarily of people, in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, England and Ireland. "I was beginning to understand humanity and the human condition. It gave me a sense of the global community." During his high school years Timothy also learned to play guitar, but after hearing Ravi Shankar on sitar, Cooper began playing that instrument for several years. Cooper also had a passion for film-making. One of his short student films was about the Spanish Inquisition ("man's inhumanity to man"), and it won numerous national and international film awards. This led to Timothy being the youngest student (at age 18) ever accepted at that time to the American Film Institute's Center for Advanced Film Studies in Los Angeles, which primarily offered a two-year upper-graduate program. There Cooper studied classic films, wrote scripts and shot videos for critiquing, and attended lectures by Steven Spielberg, David Lean and Martin Scorsese. After graduation, Cooper produced a feature film, "The Big Deal, " about the end of the Sixties.
At age 19, while at the American Film Institute, Cooper began learning to play the piano, and from then on he has regularly practiced his improvisational creativity. “I love the piano’s ability to create oceanic sound, that floating feeling, countless waves tossed across endless seas.” Over the years Cooper has been inspired by acoustic-oriented artists such as Keith Jarrett, Liz Story, Will Ackerman, Philip Aaberg and Suzanne Ciani.
“Even though the events of 9/11 are reflected in Light on the Water, the music is really my plea for peace and understanding in the world among all people.”
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