Saturday, September 1, 2012

Palindromes (Perenepsis #3)

Well, I thought the next piece posted would be for string quartet, but of the two pieces I "finished" on Tuesday before the hurricane turned out the lights, this is the only one to have passed inspection so far; the strings need a bit more work. This is Perenepsis #3, which is similar to Perenepses #1 (aka Scherzo #2) and .#2, but even more so, meaning that if you didn't like them, you'll like this one even less.

This one is in B-flat major (approximately; as with the other two, it wanders too much for a key signature to be useful). While it is #3 in the Perenepsis series, it was actually the first to bear the name. It began as a retread of an older unfinished piece, but departs from it enough that I may still may return to the earlier piece at some point.

Palindromes -- most of them slightly "broken" -- are woven throughout, beginning with the introduction, which (minus its last two notes) is a palindrome in terms of not only melody, but also harmony, rhythm and dynamics. The intro originally came about as a cadence in the middle of the piece, but it seemed to make a good bookend, and so became also the intro and the end. Some of the other passages are also palindromes (as well as inversions, and swapping of left and right hand parts), and the overall structure is a truncated palindrome -- after the introductory measure in 17/8, it goes to 7 bars of 15/8, then 6 of 13/8, continuing the pattern down to a single 3/8 measure, then reversing the pattern, but ending early, with the second bar of the return of 13/8.

The piece actually has three "middles": chronologically, of course, at 1'58" total duration, 59 seconds marks the halfway point. Then there is the center of the second of three appearances of the opening palindrome, at 48 seconds. Finally, the middle of the 3/8 is at 1'20" and is itself a sort of "vertical palindrome", consisting of stacked fourths (foreshadowed by stacked fifths four bars earlier). The mood is both serious and playful -- who says I have to choose just one?

While it may not be obvious, this piece does bear the influence of Joseph Haydn, specifically his Op. 33 ("Russian") String Quartets. Also, the beginnings of a Perenepsis #4 have begun fermenting in the ol' noggin, but have not yet made their way to the fingers or to paper yet. I'm sure that this news will provoke a reaction of "Oh no, not again!" from most of you -- and an equally hearty "So what?" from everyone else...

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