About Cornelius Boots
Award-winning composer Cornelius Boots is in full-blooded collaboration with the deceptively simple, yet devilishly difficult shakuhachi flute of Zen Buddhism. He is also a specialist in Taimu, its baritone brother. The result is a rich and inspired collision of classic rock, blues, heavy metal, and Zen Buddhist nature hymns from monasteries.
After a 30-year career of high-caliber jazz, classical, rock and experimental music activities, Boots has positioned himself at the crossroads of personal expression and divine revelation.
“He’s not just an amazing musician, he’s like a mystic with a tube in his face.” –Maurizio Benazzo, co-founder, Science and Nonduality
In 2001, I was living in Chicago and was writing, performing and recording with my rock power trio magnesium. I heard a recording of shakuhachi and found a way to order a real bamboo shakuhachi through the store at the community music school I taught at. On April 7, 2001, my shakuhachi arrived and I had a wonderful time trying to get sounds on it and comparing what did come out to notes that the piano in my teaching studio could also play. Almost none of them matched, and I was only getting sounds about 1/3 of the time, so it quickly became evident that in order to create those rich, earthy meditative sounds I had heard on the recording, I was in for the “long haul” as they say. And that’s not even accounting for the 7 notes of the chromatic scale that were not accessible by either covering or uncovering the 5 holes on the flute.
It was a bamboo mystery, and I have been on the trail, picking up the scents and discovering clues for over 16 years now. I only wish that every human being could discover some topic, path or pursuit that could offer them even a fraction of the challenge, revelation and fulfillment that shakuhachi and Taimu have for me.
All hail the big breathing bamboo.
In 1983 in the 4th grade I picked clarinet as the instrument I wanted to learn. This was for 3 reasons: 1) they did not offer drums of any kind 2) the plastic square record they gave us as a sampler of each instrument featured low notes of the regular, as far as I remember, and those were very cool sounding 3) even though I had a mental affinity for choosing the violin (only because Sherlock Holmes played violin) my Grandpa convinced me that violins were scrapy and scratchy in the early phases and wouldn’t a wind instrument perhaps be a better selection?
All of these elements became very important aspects in my playing and eventually composing on and for the clarinet and bass clarinet. In fact, I became a baritone saxophone specialist because my interests in terms of style leaned more to the jazz side and treated symphonic/concert/marching band as just a training ground, and it was there that I played clarinet, not saxophone. I also began to play my first rock and funk gigs as a bari sax/vocalist modeled of course on the legendary exemplar of Angelo Moore from Fishbone. But when it came time to “go to college” and “choose a major,” clarinet seemed like a better choice due to its deeper history and actual presence in the 17th century and onwards.
Soon, the paths began to merge: my pull towards a bigger reed meant that I was soon the contrabass clarinetist (1992-1997) in the clarinet choir at music school, and eventually I became the top orchestral bass clarinetist no just at this large, competitive music school, but also within this geographic region, leading to a two year bass/3rd clarinet position in the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, with whom I got to perform Rite of Spring, American in Paris, Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite, and many other chestnuts of the bass clarinet orchestral repertoire. Once I moved back over to jazz ensembles during my Masters degree program with David Baker, I was once again the baritone saxophonist in the top big band, but now had the bass clarinet on hand for about half of my solos.
Starting in 1994, my composing grew rapidly and enthusiastically out of my close mind-melding with first the contrabass and then the bass clarinet. Visit and peruse the Bass Clarinet Compositions pages for all the goods and follow the low reed sounds.
Like many children of the 70’s and 80’s, my music education began with heavy doses of funk and disco in rollerskating rinks, and also rock and pop from the radio. Lots of radio, and lots of Maxell XLII chrome cassettes filled with songs from the radio and LP’s and cassettes dubbed from friends. Until I watched documentaries about turntablists (hip-hop DJ’s who then delved into the virtuosic aspect of turning the turntable into an electronic instrument in-and-of-itself) I was unaware that many other kids were making what they call “pause tapes.” These were audio collages that you created by using the pause button on a tape machine and stringing together various sections of many sources onto a blank tape, thereby, in fact “composing.” I was making those alongside my brother and under the influence of older friends who turned me on to Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Talking Heads and the Moody Blues, adding a heavy dose of creative imagination to my previous diet of Billy Joel, Hall & Oates, Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, the Beatles, Chuck Berry and other golden oldies from my mom’s vinyl collection.
As a young clarinetist and saxophonist, I delved deeper into some more obscure realms through Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Eddie Harris, John Coltrane and Frank Zappa. Around this time (middle school) I would also have to list Monty Python, Stephen King and the Twilight Zone as deep, formative influences that ensured a strong warp to my fertile, bright mind–a bias that I have yet to recover from. Understand that from my current point of view (2017), the intersection of Monty Python’s The Final Ripoff, Frank Zappa’s Uncle Meat, Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, and the twists of reality presented by The Twilight Zone–both the 60’s and 80’s iterations of the TV show–now appears as an incredibly rare, unlikely high-water mark of supremely intelligent, artful imaginativeness. That I have been attempting to participate in a world that creates and values creations such as these while in fact living in a society that actually values things that can be measured, quantified, killed, dissected and analyzed–this has always created inner and outer friction and static. But since this is a relatively recent revelation, coming as it has with what they call “hindsight,” let us return to the progression which culminates on me actually composing music….to be continued…