"Scene Shift" was written for the London Contemporary Dance Theatre in May, 1979 for a dance work choreographed by Micha Bergese. Details of the dance, its creative impetus and raison d'Ítre now seem shrouded in the mists of time, but there was most certainly a large painted back-drop featuring a railway crossing in the English countryside. Micha wanted the music to be remeniscent of 40's jazz without actually being 40's jazz, and after much searching and consultation I came up with a number by Benny Goodman called "Holy Cats". which became the melodic and harmonic basis for the entire work.
I first analysed each of the reiterations of the basic chorus, and grouped all of the lead lines into a single block of 12 bars. This block, together with the ever-present walking bass line became the foundation of the last section. The entire block was then compressed into a single two bar phrase which became the source of the opening section. Notes within this phrase are then successively either omitted or sustained, creating a "screening" process which allows some of the simpler elements of its constitution to re-emerge.
The central section takes the most predominant harmonic movements of "Holy Cats" and divides it between the two piano players. The cello and percussion alternately take free soloistic rides over this backdrop, often quoting from the more outrageous excursions of the soloists in Benny's original band.