23 November 2010

On the naming of the movements

By request:

There was a year when I was in Oklahoma and a good friend of mine was in Finland. Out of the Baltic blue he sent a care package including one of the recordings made by Astor Piazzolla’s own quintet, Tango: Hora Cero. Of course, even before this I knew Stravinsky’s tangos (one for piano; another, one of the characteristic dances in L’histoire du soldat) . . . but the combination of Stravinsky’s somewhat refracted reinterpretation of popular dance, and the earnestness of Piazzolla’s modernist-complected tango compositions, was a seed that was a long while germinating. This is the deep background to Tango in Boston, the original sketch which has since become the third movement of the Viola Sonata. The subtitle, Dances with Shades, employs shades in the sense of spirit-beings, and alludes to the tango’s nostalgic

A great many of the occasional pieces I have written over the years have been for musicians whose technical comfort level I had to take care not to over-tax. When Dana asked for a Viola Sonata, it was immediately apparent to me that here was an opportunity to make technical demands of an order seldom available to me. So it is a fusion of a vigorously freewheeling sound-world, and a high level of technical demand, of which the first movement gives Fair Warning.

The second movement I thought of as serving as a bridge (not a great stretch of the imagination); and my thoughts were of a calm, tensile buoyancy which suggested a Suspension Bridge. At about the time that I started actual composition, a virtual acquaintance of mine from Minnesota named Dave created a forum-within-a-forum, a Shed of Contemplation, which is Dave’s Shed of the subtitle.

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