Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shepherd's Call

This piece was actually completed a couple weeks before Perenepsis #2 (after being almost finished for quite some time before that), but I expect that Perenepsis #3 will be the next one to be completed, and wanted a buffer between the two, so here it is. Unlike Antioch, this isn't a piano piece adapted for oboe and piano, although it did start with just the three opening chords. The third chord required a resolution, and then this sequence called for a response. At this point, I wanted a bagpipe call over the held chord, but without an available bagpipe sample, I settled for an oboe and proceeded from there. The progress from initial idea to "near completion" was very quick, but a couple of bars near the end kept bothering me for months. There's something hidden in the right hand of the piano part starting at 0:36, but I don't think I'll say what it is. For now, just be happy to have a break between Perenepses #2 and #3 (since I made up the word, I get to decide how to pluralize it).

Friday, June 8, 2012

Xiv (Perenepsis #2)

The Xiv is one of the lesser-known mythical creatures, at least here in the US, having its origins in medieval Croatia. It was generally depicted as having the head and upper body of a bird of prey, sometimes with wings and other times with arms (but never both). The lower half was basically humanoid, but unlike most mythical beasts of that time, the Xiv wore pants -- and smoked a pipe (the version with arms, not the winged one).

Now, I would've provided an artist's rendering of this beast, except that all of the preceding is of course total nonsense. This is just the 14th item in a notebook of piano pieces, some with titles, most with nothing beyond a Roman numeral -- Untitled Prelude is I, II is its still unfinished companion piece, IV became Nocturne for String Quartet, V became Antioch, VI is Nota Brevis, VIII is Scherzo #2 (Perenepsis #1), XIII is another Perenepsis that I might get back to at some point, etc.

What is Perenepsis? First of all, it's a word that I made up because I didn't know what else to call this type of composition (so far, limited to piano pieces). It is also the approach used in creating these compositions. I've decided to call my Scherzo #2 (VIII) the first of these, although several earlier pieces (Allegro in C, Collisions, Anachronistic Rabbits, the piano-only version of Antioch, and a few non-posted/unfinished ones) share many of the distinguishing characteristics and similar approach to the compositional process.

What are the characteristics? More percussive than lyrical, a good bit of dissonance (not exactly atonal, but not clearly major or minor, generally employing quartal harmonies), irregular or shifting meter, tempo changes brought about by stressing different note lengths rather than by changing the beats per minute, switching parts between the hands, frequent use of inversion and reversal of motifs, mixture of contrapuntal and chordal textures... that pretty much covers it. There's also a different approach to the compositional process, but that's harder to describe, and besides, if I just blurted that out, then anyone could do it!

This one is in 2/4 -- no weird or changing time signatures (just wait for #3, though!), but accents and stresses create the impression of shifting between 2/4 and 3/8 in places; it's more or less in G minor/major/phrygian/locrian, shifts a few times between using mainly eighth/sixteenth notes and quarters/eighths, has a brief fugal section right in the middle based on an accelerated version of a subject given 20 bars earlier, and a few other fun things, although this isn't the kind of piece you're going to go around humming afterwards. It's also semiautobiographical (although I may have been misquoted in places) -- this is what it sounds like inside my head; not all the time, of course, but often enough: