From a Flicker to ‘Embers’: Behind Jordan Rudess’ Creative Process for Moises Jam Sessions

We interviewed Jordan Rudess about the creative process and the inspirations behind Embers. Made specially for Moises Jam Sessions, the song is now yours to reimagine. By using the Moises App to craft the ideal backdrop and sharing your rendition with #MoisesJamsContest, you’re on the run for lifetime Moises Premium.

Moises Jam Sessions proudly feature Embers, a new work by Jordan Rudess — Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment’s acclaimed keyboardist, who also has a brilliant solo career. He made the song specially for the contest, but it will also be on his future album.

Besides gifting us with the contest’s core song, Jordan Rudess gave us insights on Embers’ inspirations, the creative process, and more. Find out the interview’s details below!

Understanding Embers: An Interview with Jordan Rudess

Jordan Rudess expresses a deep passion for how music technology can enhance the experiences of learning, performing, and overall enjoying music — a sentiment that aligns seamlessly with Moises’s mission.

"Moises and the people behind it are on a similar technology mission, with some of the best and brightest minds building groundbreaking tools for musicians." (Jordan Rudess)

Jordan wanted to create something with clear, distinctive elements that users could break down and examine closely. A song that, while holding a recognizable structure, would offer some complexity and nuances.

Embers is a progressive rock song, and Jordan reveals influences like Genesis, Yes, and Pink Floyd. He admits the subgenre has its challenges, like the elaborate chord structures. But he believes Moises can “render even the more complicated musical progressions accessible to musicians of all levels”. He’s also positive that Moises’ features will help contestants grasp the chord and structure of Embers.

"One thing I love about Moises is that it lays out the groundwork, so participants can let their intuition lead the way." (Jordan Rudess)

Keep reading Jordan Rudess’ answers below for insights on the song Embers!

Moises: What was the first element created for the song? Did you start with the chorus, with the lyrics, with a specific chord progression…? And what musical instrument did you mainly use during that creative process?

Jordan Rudess: I started with the piano — as I often do. Interestingly, the chorus was what came to me first. I still love writing things down with pencil and paper and would jot down the chords as I developed them. After that, I shaped the rest of the song! I love writing interesting chord progressions that take the listener on a harmonic journey. For this song, I wanted to find a balance where the song was not overly complex but at the same time had genuine harmonic interest.

Moises: Could you delve into the emotional spectrum you chose for Embers and the reasons behind these choices?

Jordan Rudess: It was impossible not to let the events of this past year inform so much of the emotional scope of Embers and, actually, the whole album. In writing this song, I found myself processing a lot of the pain and confusion I’ve been experiencing in the wake of so much turmoil and suffering. The hopelessness and fear — and the empowerment in realizing that from those same origins stems the impetus to fight — feels very personal and real to me.

According to Jordan, his human condition resonates in Embers more than his experiences as a musician. At the song's core lies a “desperate wish for peace” (in his words) and for the end of violence.

Themes like strength, resilience, and purpose are also deeply intertwined with this composition. As he points out, those aspects are “critical not only to musicianship but also to life”.

Moises: Could you walk us through the narrative progression in Embers, from the darker opening to the optimistic conclusion?

Jordan Rudess: The sense of defeat and worry at the song's beginning doesn’t necessarily go away as the narrative progresses. I think it’s still there (and likely always will be). Instead, as the song develops, there’s a realization that the pain that causes this sense of despair is the same pain that gives us the will to fight. There is space to hold all of these conflicting feelings simultaneously. They actually intersect and charge each other, and, in fact, it is within this paradigm that we reach our highest form of self-actualization and have better emotional resources to work towards a better world.

Moises: The harmonic journey of Embers is rich with minor, major, and dominant 7th chords. What is the key to balancing creativity and finesse with cohesiveness and consistency in music?

Jordan Rudess: For me, it’s very intuitive, and I’m grateful for my classical training at Juilliard for giving me the tools and foundation and enough musical perspective that I can experiment with different styles and techniques.

The intuitive aspect he mentions can be linked to something known as “expert intuition”: the ability to make quick and accurate decisions without conscious deliberation, thanks to a history of study and practice. So, in a nutshell, immersion is key to refining musicianship.

Moises: Given the diverse range of potential interpretations, how do you imagine contestants will use different instruments and arrangements in their renditions of Embers?

Jordan Rudess: They can replace the vocals, play new guitar leads, re-interpret the piano leads, and even add their own instrumentation. The sky’s the limit, and I hope that musicians of all kinds feel welcome to embark on the "Embers" journey.

He also gives a special tip for contestants as well as musicians in general:

"My advice to any musician, regardless of level or instrument, is to approach every new endeavor (musical or otherwise!) with heart, fluidity, and patience". (Jordan Rudess)

Moises: What do you hope the Moises community will learn or experience through engaging with Embers in this contest? Jordan Rudess: I hope that they might learn some new chords and explore a new stylistic approach. I also hope that they enjoy the challenge of Bastian Martinez’s amazing guitar lead and then try to create their own! The goal is to allow them to expand their musical horizons and use Embers as a tool to reach the next level in their journeys.

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Embers: Igniting the Desire for Freedom and Peace

At its core, Embers is a reflection of humanity’s collective experience. It reflects our struggles, our yearning for peace and freedom, and our personal battles against turmoil. The composition also highlights the resilience required in the quest for inner peace as well as universal peace.

Jordan Rudess says his “sincerest hope is that all the listeners and participants in the contest can resonate with the concept of freedom”.

He defines freedom as the ability to choose our lives and destinies, as well as the opportunity to live truthfully and proudly. And according to Jordan, we want that freedom not only for ourselves but also for others.

"This is my greatest dream for the world and for you." (Jordan Rudess)

Curious to learn more about Moises Jam Sessions? Click here!

Camila Miranda

Brazilian, with a background in Psychology and currently pursuing a postgraduate degree in Communication & Marketing. Music lover, with my voice being my primary instrument, but I can also play the guitar — and I've played around with the bass. Proud mom to many pets and an enthusiast of tattoos and hair makeovers.

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