ADSR (Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release) —2023

I first saw the term ADSR in the late seventies on one of the synths (Roland SH-1000) my brother bought for his high school rock band. By moving the four sliders on the synthesizer control panel, you could modify (aka goof around with) the level of the sound wave’s four stages: attack, decay, sustain, and release.

I had the idea of composing a large-scale piece with this title about ten years before writing ADSR. When I first conceived of this music and the four-stage progression from one movement to the next, my father had died of ALS, and my mother’s health had begun to fail. I was searching for an appropriate musical metaphor for the process of accepting the inevitability of our mortality. Attack. Decay. Sustain. Release. Those four words felt a little bit like a mantra. While this might seem like a “heavy, deep and real” approach to writing a jazz-band chart, the basic concept gave me the opportunity to reflect on what a great gift every day is, and how important it is to carpe diem, as they say.

ADSR (Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release) was composed for Jonathan Ragonese and the Criterions Jazz Ensemble of West Chester University.