Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Occasional and essential

Not all pieces in a composer's catalog need to have the same weight. Some pieces can be smaller in scale, or more modest in ambitions or resources required. (The complete Mozart (NMA) online sure confirms this). Not all pieces need to respond to a commission or be intended for professional or public performances. In 2006, alongside the largish pieces (three ensemble pieces, two string quartets, the beginnings of a music theatre piece), I managed to do a number of occasional pieces, including a curious little Gnomic Round, for Larry Polansky's round collection, Mr Brenner, His Pavane, for a younger colleague, a specialist in chaconnes, and a set of 12 small keyboard Preludes for amateur use, some of which I've put online here for household use.

Smaller pieces are often just the training grounds for larger pieces, but they can also have virtues of their own. In making the set of Preludes, I realized that the prelude form, especially when divorced from the necessity of being the prelude to something else, was essentially a cadence extended into a minor epiphany, and is really an intimate form for the private sphere. This contrasts strongly in function with an etude, which has a technical premise, thus inviting -- should the technical premise be realised -- a more public format and display. (NB: 2007 may be my year of Etudes). But the best thing about a smaller piece is that it practically invites the composer to take a risk, to try out an idea or some material with which the outcome is less than certain, and the taking of which insures that music stays modern.

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