Sunday, November 17, 2013


This is a prelude and fugue for piano. Instead of a prelude followed by a fugue in the same key, however, this is an E-flat major fugue wrapped inside and intertwined with a C minor prelude. It's in 5/4; the fugue subject kind of wanted to be in 3/4 (as in the entries of the first three voices in the stretto section), but the opening prelude idea was in 5/4, and I knew that the two were going to end up being played together. While I'm obviously not opposed to changing time signatures (for example, Allegro in CPerenepsis #3), in this case it seemed that maintaining a single time signature helped unify the prelude and fugue.

What surprised me here is that after several attempts to write a major key fugue, none of which seemed to quite work, I finally managed to do one inside of an otherwise minor key piece. It still seems to me that minor keys are somehow inherently more conducive to fugues, but this piece encourages me to try again to write a stand-alone major key fugue. But not right away -- now that this thing's done, it's time to work on another "accidental" Christmas piece (a la Bells). I hope to finish it within the next few weeks, but no guarantees; I'm still tinkering with the instrumentation, which could significantly bog down progress.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


This is more a general impression than a setting of a specific text, following the overall form of an Introit in the Tridentine Mass (hence the absence of guitars, tambourines, slide whistles, etc.). The instrumentation is string orchestra plus solo violin, viola and cello (the solo viola part could be played by a violin, but I prefer the darker tone of the viola for it). It came together fairly quickly -- about two weeks, with much more time spent listening than writing. I thought it was going to take a good bit longer to complete, but once the final structural decision was made, it pretty much finished itself. It's in F Major, with no tricky rhythms, and as with Bells, I made a conscious effort to avoid excessive complexity.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Colloquium Inter Amicos

A conversation among friends -- arguing, agreeing, joking, teasing, talking over each other, changing the subject, bringing back previous topics, and finally adjourning. It is simultaneously an animated landscape with running water, rising and falling hills, birds and other critters, and the occasional moment of stillness.

So, nothing for months and then two pieces within a couple of days. I do have a few other pieces getting near completion, but don't expect this pace to continue. I actually thought this piece was going to be completed before the previous one; it took considerably less effort to finish, but unlike most of my pieces, the ending was the very last part done. Once the early flute theme resurfaced, the ending became clear, and a few minor tweaks finished it, all but one of these being in the final six measures.

With 88 bars in 4/4 at 88 bpm, it's actually slightly over 4 minutes long, due to a couple of fermatas. A few brief false ritardandi are accomplished rhythmically -- my favorite is around 2:08, where the bassoon seems to be dragging the tempo down despite steady quarter notes from the flute; a couple of other milder ones are done with half-note triplets.

Formally, this is similar (but not identical) to something I've wanted to do for a long time -- it's a sort of theme and variations, but with the variations coming first. In this case, it's really themes and variations, with the full version of the primary theme not coming until 3:13 into the piece. It opens in C minor, with the full theme in G major, and ends on a D-flat major seventh chord, so it does wander quite a bit harmonically, with a lot of chromaticism.

As you might guess from the second part of the opening description, it shares some conceptual similarities to The Pensive Ploughman below, and even some thematic relations (e.g., the meandering eighth note background figures, representing water), but has a very different harmonic language, more lively and varied rhythms (although not much faster tempo), and due to the different instrumentation, different colors. I'm not sure which of the two I like better, but that's usually the case for me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Pensive Ploughman

A farmer stands at the edge of his field, his dog sitting at his feet. Within earshot of a nearby stream, he ponders the day's efforts, wondering what else has happened in the world while he worked. As the sun touches the horizon, he offers a brief prayer of gratitude before heading inside for the evening.

The instruments portray different elements of the above description: the clarinet, of course, is the farmer; and more or less, the violin is the faithful canine companion (can't just call a violin a dog, can we?), the viola is the stream, and the cello is the land itself.

It's sort of a companion piece to Shepherd's Call -- while it was finished a little over a year later, it was started exactly two months after starting S.C. I got to thinking that I was working on my second piece for oboe and piano, and Bells (along with the Mozart clarinet concerto) had finally shown me that the clarinet can actually make some nice sounds. So, I decided to write something for clarinet -- and harpsichord! They just didn't get along with each other, but I liked the beginning of the clarinet part, so I thought a string trio might provide a better accompaniment. It did. The opening eighth note figure in the viola brought the picture together, and it was just a matter of fleshing it out from there. The main stumbling block (after the one mentioned in an earlier update) was the transition back to the opening theme just past the halfway point; once that was worked out, the rest fell into place, and I finished it on July 4th -- and went back to that section and finished it again on the 6th. And then once more today.

Musically, it is roughly in D minor / B-flat major (with a middle section in G minor that ends on F major), and the time signature is 5/4, although it could just as easily be in 3 or 4, as the barlines in this piece are mostly there to hold up the staves.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Perenepsis #5 (A Nightmare)

Warning: If this is your first visit to this site, please listen to any other piece first! While I'm pretty pleased with it, I recognize that someone who hears this first may think this is what all of my music sounds like, and be scared off from listening to any other of my pieces, some of which are almost civilized. Thank you for your cooperation; it really is for your own good...

A couple weeks ago, I started to write a post explaining the lack of activity here lately, but just as I was about to publish it, the previously mentioned Perenpsis #5 started to demand my attention again, so after a couple of weeks, it's finally done -- ahead of #4, but it keeps its own number. This is the slow tempo installment of the Perenepsis series.

The first 59 seconds of this, which had been on paper for several years, has been left almost completely as is; I'm not sure, but this may have been part of the Frankenstein project, or even a precursor to it. There's no real counterpoint to speak of, and it's not all that melodic, either; it's mostly quiet (apart from the occasional outburst) and atmospheric, with heavy use of the sustain pedal. As in an actual nightmare, some images recur in various forms, at times barely recognizable, while others (such as the demented little waltz) pass by never to return.

One chord held this up for several days; there was something about that one chord that just didn't sound quite right. Yes, I know --  you'll probably be thinking, "Really??? Just one?" But yeah, there was one, at 2'08". No matter which two notes I played there in the left hand, nothing worked. Finally, it occurred to me that if no two notes were working, then maybe two was the problem, and sure enough, a plain old major seventh chord with the third omitted did the trick. It also made sense horizontally (continuation of the lower right hand line in the left hand along with the other two left-hand notes), so problem solved.

On the other hand, there were some pretty neat chords that fell into place more easily. Two of these are a spread out G-G-F-E in the lower end at 2'50", and the closing cadence: a kind of a IV-I thing -- a modified D6/4 chord without the third, plus the added color of G# and B flat, with the D "resolving" up a half-step instead of down, to a stack of octave A's with a single D# (the open tritone, a variation on the open fifths I like so much), all with a held C# at the top -- not quite A major, but not quite minor, either: we leave the dreamer beginning to awaken but not quite there yet.

So, here it is. It is best listened to -- if at all -- in a quiet, preferably dark, room. A bit of a draft or chill might also be appropriate, and maybe some hot tea or cocoa, especially on a rainy night. But remember, you've been warned...
Oh yeah, this time I actually put a tiny bit of effort into the video part of this -- and I do mean tiny.