Woman A/Part is inspired by the images in the “Museums” series of photographer Carrie Mae Weems. The black-and-white images struck a chord with me, each with a lone figure, a woman who is at once integral to the whole image, yet distanced from her surroundings. A part of the scene, yet also apart from it. Taken a step further, Weems as the photographer is both a part of the moment, yet apart from it, distanced by the camera lens. It is this dichotomy that “Woman A/Part” is intended to capture.
Somewhere between D and C# was originally written for the Modern Dance choreography of Cathy Allen. In her choreographer’s program notes she states: “In a modern world we usually balance somewhere between tranquility and chaos. It’s our connections with our surroundings and our relationships that pluck us from the edge and bring us the harmony and peace we seek."
In traditional or classical music, the pitch C# would normally resolve up to D as in the D major scale. In non-traditional or contemporary music, C# could resolve down to C and there would be no major scale such as we are used to hearing. So the music is a metaphor for teetering on the edge of what is expected. Which way will this struggle resolve? Where will the edge take us?
Somewhere Between D and C# is a type of tone poem based on my original poem:
Somewhere Between D and C#
We teeter on the edge,
somewhere between D and C#,
not knowing whether to resolve
up or down.
Suspended by time and space
within a shape
that still appears unresolved
And yet, we keep teetering
on that edge between D and C#,
with constant consonant memories
of dissonant times.
We teeter somewhere
between D and C#,
where desired resolutions
The contradanza was a popular dance in Western Europe in the 18th century, with its stately 4/4 meter and dotted-quarter/eight rhythms. It came via Spain to the new world and flourished in Cuba in the 19th century. It became popular internationally and was known as the dance of Havana – the Habanera.
Born in 1941 and growing up in Miami, David Nisbet Stewart was attracted to Cuban culture. He wrote this piece based on the habanera rhythm, first as a piano-brass quartet and then revised in 2017 for this cello-piano duo.
The piece is in a moderate 4/4 time with the characteristic rhythm appearing particularly in the bass lines. The sound of castanets is evoked by grace-note riffs in the piano, as at the beginning, and also sometimes in the cello. The double-stopped sixths in the cello create a sultry Latin flavor. As the piece progresses, the piano starts to break through the smooth texture with somewhat dissonant sixteenth-note figures. Then sixteenth note runs become more prominent. The piece ends fortissimo with large chords in the piano supporting a typical melodic motive in the cello. In the last five bars, this quiets down, ending pianissimo on octave A’s in the habanera rhythm.
-David Nisbet Stewart
Lines, Hockets, and Riffs was originally scored for flute, clarinet, and cello. A still earlier version had soprano saxophone in place of clarinet, as a homage to John Coltrane; the third movement had a somewhat late-Coltrane-like cadenza in it – the “Riffs” of the title. The “Lines” and “Hockets” of the title refer to the contrapuntal nature of the music, in which the instruments frequently engage in their own extended lines but, at other times, split a melodic line among themselves.
The essence of the piece is the banter between instruments. In the 1st movement, the instruments comment on each others’ yearning lines. The 2nd movement is a casual conversation between the instruments, relatively static but with short fluttering bursts. The 3rd movement starts with a peaceful lull in the conversation, then suddenly switches to a dynamic chase to the climax.
The current version takes advantage of the greater agility of violin and piano, over the original flute and clarinet. Though the underlying thematic material has not changed, the narrative shape is stronger, and the sometimes impossible rhythms of the original have been toned down. The cadenza is still present in the 3rd movement, but it is now shared among the instruments so that a listener will not easily hear the influence of Coltrane. The jazz influence is still clear, however, in the syncopated rhythms of the 3rd movement's fast passages.
When I was writing my string quartet "Departure," I had in mind setting out on a long ocean voyage. "Ocean Air" is a musical portrait of three scenes on that voyage, which also satisfies my long-held desire to write music for piano trio.
"Afternoon" focuses on harmonic richness expressed in full-textured chords, in dialogue with solo melodies in one or both strings. The initial 4-part thematic chord material in the piano returns at the end in string double stops. My image was a warm afternoon, a calm sea, and birds occasionally flying by overhead or fish being spotted nearby.
The texture of "Evening" is built around fourths and fifths, meant to evoke the limited color palette of the ocean and sky at night. The prevailing sights and sounds are the slowly passing clouds, the rhythm of the ship's engines (the cello ostinato), and the waves, with only the twinkling stars for contrast. The initial and final material are based on an earlier composition where they embodied the heartbeat and mental imagery of a dreaming animal.
"Morning" is energetic and has been described as "dance-like," despite its mix of 7- and 8-beat rhythms with the latter divided in varying patterns of 2 and 3. I hoped to capture some of the excitement of waking up to fresh air, sunshine, and a rapid but perhaps slightly choppy ride through the water.
-L Peter Deutsch
Many artistic works have been inspired by the myth or the waterfall goddess Ondine. From Edgar Allan Poe, to Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, this figure has been subjected to a variety of interpretations. My own version is not directly inspired on the myth itself but on a photograph of a sculpture of Ondine by the Japanese artist Isamo Noguchi. This photograph captures the essence of the complex and intense relationship between artist and muse. My work is a sonic snapshot of the intricate journey starting with the exhilarating inception of an idea through the emotional rollercoaster of bringing it to life and, finally, of letting it go and have a life of its own. In this journey we are exposed to the kaleidoscope of sonic images, textures, layers and colors that the Trio Casals so brilliantly evokes.
Nightfall, originally the middle movement of my bassoon sonata, “Circadia”, was introduced to a group of musicians at a New Year’s Eve party by the commissioner, Carolyn Beck. Several cellists came up to Dr. Beck and said they would love to perform it. Hence, the birth of the cello version. Since the horrible events of 9/11, our world seems to be moving with harrowing speed toward the precipice of Armageddon. Nightfall is a reflective, melancholy, and brooding piece that mirrors the descent from day into night.
Palette No. 1
My father was a representational landscape and marine artist, who had a disdain for modern Art. I remember frequently seeing him painting with palette in hand using a mixture of colors to dip into. My brother, Martin, inherited the talent, but chose to become a well known BBC broadcaster instead.
I turned to music as I was unable to compete with my father and brother. Instead of art, I found that I had a natural talent for improvisation at the piano. I improvised a number of times in public including on the BBC World Service with Martin as a narrator. My style is perhaps best described as light/classical.
My improvisational style was nearly always melodic and harmonic, influenced no doubt by the popular classical works and tunes from English musicals that my mother used to play as an amateur pianist. That influenced me to add a lighter flavor to some of my improvisations.
One day, I decided to sit at the piano and write down a few phrases of improvisation. Then, day by day, I would add a few more phrases until I had a composition lasting up to 10 minutes. There are now four pieces composed in this manner: “Palettes 1-4.” These pieces are devoid of traditional structures, but could be described as being in link form. With the “Trio Casals" in mind, Palette No. 1 benefited enormously by adding a violin and cello. After editing, Palette No. 1 now lasts around seven minutes.
Piano Trio No.1: Solo la Sombra is a transcription of a song I composed in 2005 for coloratura soprano, cello, and piano that was inspired by two fragments of poems by Pablo Neruda (in a book called "PABLO NERUDA: Absence and Presence"). These poem fragments circle around memories, with allusions to shadows, intruding winds and echoes of ancient footsteps. Their vivid imagery suggested to me buried memories called up by the wind and reflected and amplified by moonlight as if viewed mentally from a vantage point removed, distant and seen only in half-light. In my transcription of this song - Solo la Sombra - for piano trio, the violin takes on the dramatic roll of the soprano and gives the former coloratura passages a new 'color'. Reweaving the balance of voices for this revised instrumentation made it possible to create new musical relationships and to elaborate some of the melodies and harmonies with detail that would be lost in a vocal version. The form of the piano trio and the song was determined by the contrasting moods of the two fragments: the melancholic cast of the opening and ending frame a cheerful and animated middle section that suggest recollections of a jauntier nature, perhaps a forgotten energy recovered.
-Joanne D. Carey
Imagined/Remembered was commissioned by Artistic Director Daniel Kepl for the 2005 Santa Barbara Chamber Music Festival and is dedicated to a mentor and friend, Mahlon Balderston. The piece is tonal in nature and is characterized by linear melodic writing and unusual meters. The first movement is the most song-like. It was described by a jazz pianist friend of mine as a unique manifestation of “rhythm without pulse.” The second movement is the slowest and also the darkest and most dramatic. It was composed on the day I learned of the death of a friend and musical colleague. The third movement is the fastest of the three, and both the most energetic and the most virtuosic for the cello. It ends with a propulsive burst of exuberant momentum.
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