Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

About my Music

Joe Hasiewicz – USA

[Editor’s note: Joe is a musician, the creator of Theosophical Search, , a superb tool for serious students, and President of the Wheaton-Olcott Lodge, based at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America]

 Public Eye JH 2 About my Music

The author

Musical expression, for me so far, has been primarily instrumental although there are a few compositions containing vocals. Also, often there is a visual image associated with a composition which I try and render to some degree and include in my website. When asked what kind of music I write, I am sometimes at a loss as to what to say, other than “it is hard to describe,” or that the music is “instrumental,” neither of which does much to convey a clear idea, so I will make a more concerted effort here.

The two polarities exerting the greatest influence on my work are modern classical and rock music. Modern classical music, with its composers pushing the boundaries of music with their innovations and the pulse of rock continue to inspire me, but the musical result is not really either one.

Growing up in the heyday of progressive rock, I was of course influenced and most of the musicians that I associated with, played rock instruments so writing for rock instrumentation was more familiar and pragmatic.

Having studied classical piano, I was also familiar with the classical repertoire, but was more drawn to the classical music of the 20th century, because of its experimental and pioneering nature. Although the compositional methods may be intriguing, be it serialism or minimalism, the musical result was not exactly what I wanted to say. I suppose that is why many composers devise their own unique approach.

One of the objectives in creating a piece of music, at least for me, possibly for others is to communicate something of ourselves, something that makes the listener feel as though some experience is being shared, sometimes it may be transformative, hopefully unique, something that starts at one point, ending at another, like a small voyage, not unlike watching a movie.

One of the concepts that is jettisoned, is that of repeating sections of music. In most compositions the attempt is to keep the music consistently changing and moving forward. Another concept that is relinquished is that of structural functions of traditional harmony. In other words, I try to remain unaware of what “key” I am working in (if there even is one) or what “chord” I am using, while still trying to maintain a sense of tonal centricity. A technique that helps achieve this is to identify groups of notes that contain a certain character and then find relationships between them that determine how they will progress from one note group to the next. Of course, no techniques or idea is used absolutely and ultimately, inspiration or intuition have the final say.

One recent example of such is while at the Krotona Institute of Theosophy in Ojai California, several people were talking about musical settings for Annie Besant’s universal invocation “O Hidden Life” and someone (or maybe two people) casually suggested that I write a musical setting. I was not immediately interested because I had not been writing much music at the time. But while sitting for our daily group meditation, an idea for the setting for “O Hidden Life” came to me almost instantaneously. It was as if the composition was already complete and just needed to be rendered. When I got home, I quickly wrote and recorded the setting with my wife Julie performing multiple vocal parts.

The setting for “O Hidden Life” as well as recordings of other compositions can be found at the following link:

Some of the compositions on my website were recorded with live performers, others were rendered electronically, while most are a hybrid of the two.

Public Eye JH 3 Co de Kloet

Co de Kloet

One of the few pieces that contain vocals and this sort of a fun one, is an internet collaboration with a Dutch composer/producer Co de Kloet called “Little Spoon from Peshtigo” who contributed alto saxophone, vocal and recorder parts. The collaboration came about through social media. Co’s parts were recorded in the Netherlands while Michael Kent Smith’s guitar and Steven Hashimoto’s bass parts were recorded in the United States. Co and I never actually met in person.

The piece is about the “surreal” experiences of Mr. Paul Berkholst during his visit to the United States. More specifically, it is based on one of Paul’s internet blogs describing the events of single day in Peshtigo, Wisconsin at the Peshtigo Fire Festival.

Public Eye JH 4 Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

Paul’s blog about his odd mementos, his unique perception of life in the US, his bewilderment with respect to water towers, his sense of humor, his love for the music of Frank Zappa (there are many Zappa references in this piece) and of course the little spoon with the giant fire on it, all serve as inspiration for this song. The “giant fire” refers to the great Peshtigo Fire of 1871 which is mostly forgotten because it occurred on the same day as the great Chicago fire.

Little Spoon from Peshtigo received its world premiere on a Dutch Public Radio show called “Jazz, World and Beyond…,” which Paul normally listened to. The piece was introduced with a dedication to him and came as a very pleasant surprise. As a token of his appreciation, Paul, who is an artist, sent me two of his watercolors.

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