Monday, June 7, 2010

A Tale of Two Scherzos...

... or should that be Scherzi? If I was Italian, I might care about that. The word "scherzo" is Italian for "joke", and is the name of a musical form denoting light, humorous pieces, usually in triple time.

Scherzo #1 is one of my earlier pieces, and although it's in 2/4 and in G minor, I always thought it had the spirit of a scherzo even if it's not entirely typical. The form is a simple AABAA, with slight variations in the inner A sections. It employs a dissonant ostinato -- in the right hand throughout the A's and in the left for the B -- but the harmony is very traditional. I've always considered this fun to play but very simple, yet for some reason this is one of the pieces that other musicians seem to like. Here it is:

Scherzo #2 (subtitled "Oops!", my original description of the opening), while showing signs of having the same paternity, is much more recent, having been completed late last year. This one is in 3/8, also in G minor, but much more aggressively dissonant, less formally structured, and a bit more difficult. All of the material is derived from the first 12 bars, the components being (1) the opening "Uh, oh!" idea, (2) stacked fourths, (3) alternating half-step 16ths, (4) repeated 16th note clusters, (5) a chromatic "unwinding" pattern derived from 3, and (6) a slow idea that is a combination of 2 and 5, accomplished not by a tempo change but by shifting from 16th and 8th notes to 8ths and quarters. The ending kind of snuck up on me -- I was working on it during lunch at work one day and when I got to that point, it just hit me that I'd gotten to the end. Here's the piano version:

And here's a synthesizer version that I believe softens the harshness of the dissonance while accentuating the comical nature that may be less obvious in the piano version:

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