The Royal Scotsman
David Lackner
sax, el gtr (+ pno, perc optional)
Adrian Knight Music

September 15, 2014
Brooklyn, NY (US)

David Lackner, sax
Adrian Knight, el gtr

︎︎︎Detailed Inventory

Tenor sax
El gtr (with volume pedal and delay)
Fixed media (2ch field recording)

Optional additions
El gtr 2


David Lackner, tenor sax
Adrian Knight, pno
Derek Vockins, perc


‹‹ Notes for Nervous Magic Lantern Festival 2016 ››

Having lost nearly everything, they set course for Clearwater, FL. At the end of 1975, the 340ft long Apollo — formerly HMS Royal Scotsman — entered Tampa Bay in search of a new home for its captain and crew. After touring the world incessantly for 10 years, they had become tired and weary. They camped out at the Fort Harrison Hotel in downtown Clearwater, where Keith Richards is rumored to have come up with the main riff to Sympathy for the Devil. HMS Royal Scotsman, originally built for World War II, had reached the final moments of an unexpectedly illustrous second career.


The Royal Scotsman was originally conceived as a 50-minute composition for solo electric guitar with volume pedal and a delay chain. Since that time, we have found ourselves reconfiguring the piece to our needs time and time again. The inspiriation for the original version came from a series of performances with Private Elevators, a project with Matt Evans, in which we experimented (and continue to experiment) with long form melodic and harmonic structures more often associated with shorter timespans.

With the Scotsman, I attempted to create an almost static environment. Thus, the delay setting used was the max allowed on the DD-6, and required me to shape extremely slow volume envelopes with the volume pedal in order to create a seamless texture. Harmonically, the work is first a slow stepwise descent, followed by a modulation, and a brief coda.

For the Synthetic Love Dream monthly residency at Troost in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, David and I created a new version for tenor saxophone and electric guitar. David invented some new and wonderful melodies based on the harmonics in the third module, as well as some entirely new inflections inspired by our other work for SLD. It was also at this point that we added field recordings of waves, recorded in Miami in 2013.

In October 2014, I curated a night of performances at the now defunct New Amsterdam headquarters (‘Van Dyke Park’) and included a new version of the Scotsman for piano, saxophone and electric guitar. Max Zuckerman, my longtime friend and collaborator from Blue Jazz TV, joined us on guitar, and I switched to piano. This performance has become my personal favorite, not only because of the many added opportunities afforded by the piano, but because we must have really been listening to each other that night. It was a very passionate performance, and the recording, simple as it is, is proof of this.

A few weeks later, we premiered yet another version of the piece, with Derek Vockins on snare drum and cymbals, David on tenor sax, Max on guitar, and me on electric bass. Derek’s snare patterns mimicked the sound of the field recording and the two blended together in a beautiful way. It also inched the piece a little bit closer to a jazz realm of thinking, something that I believe had been present from the start, and was only made more obvious with the addition of saxophone, and then piano.

In December, we spent two full days recording the Scotsman and another 30 minute collaborative composition at my then-residence on Lefferts Ave. My housemates had recently acquired a Steinway L baby grand, which was put to frequent use at the many house concerts presented there, but for a number of the weeks the house stood empty, and we arranged to do the sessions there. This recording is currently being prepared for release.

For the April 2015 Galtta Showcase at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, we presented a version for two electric guitars with stereo tremolo pedals (using two Japanese-built Boss Pan Tremolos) set to different speeds, tenor saxophone and drums.  

David and I also prepared a version for soprano saxophone with microtonal inflections and piano, and presented it at Manhattan Inn in Brooklyn in August 2015.

Through its many incarnations, its harmonic trajectory and general proportions always remain the same. This performance of The Royal Scotsman is scored for saxophone (David Lackner), electric guitar (Max Zuckerman) and synthesizer (Adrian Knight), and is accompanied by an excerpt from a field recording of ocean waves taken on Belleair Beach, FL between 11:45PM -  12:45AM, October 25, 2015.

Copyright © by Adrian Knight 2023.