Five Etudes for Solo Piano (2009)
II. Bird Songs
III. Ostinato and Invention
IV. Earth Dance
The Five Etudes for Solo Piano are highly individual and virtuosic pieces for the piano. Each etude describes the given title both musically and visually. These etudes can be played separately, but preferably in a set.
The first etude, Rhapsody, has the characteristic of a “recitative”; the piano presents melodies that are rhapsodic, almost timeless that imitates the soloist in an opera. The stubborn major 2nd interval that is often present, serves to tie the whole piece together.
Bird Songs presents a series of precisely notated rhythms and note patterns that unfold and vary in different forms throughout. Fermatas are used to control sustain and silence. They vary in length at the performer’s discretion. In this piece, the “melody” is often announced with octave displacement and transposition in order to experiment with the full possibility of timbre and texture.
Ostinato and Invention focuses on polytonality and canon. The lower voice begins a half step below the upper voice. As the piece proceeds, the lower voice comes closer to the tonality of the upper voice, and eventually ends in a “true” canon.
Detuned Melody presents a jazzy melody that is often interrupted by densely chromatic alterations that attempt to “detune” the melody. As the music gets more and more dissonant, the main theme becomes disguised or flipped. It is left to the audience to decide whether it is a successful “detuning” or not.
Earth Dance is influenced by György Ligeti’s “Études pour piano no. 3 – Touches bloquées.” Ligeti apparently borrowed the idea of movable key blocks from Henning Siedentopf’s essay, “Neue Wege der Klaviertechnik.” The silently depressed keys in one hand make some of the same notes played by the other hand silent, and thus interrupt the continuous lines. Because the skipped notes are irregularly placed in the measures, a passage with continuous eighth notes would end up sounding like those with combinations of compound and simple meters. Also, the use of the lower part of the keyboard adds energy, thickness, aggressiveness and earthiness to this piece. This etude ends the set furiously with a percussive chord in the lowest register of the piano.
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