This piece is unique among all my output in that it is the only one that I wrote by hand, at the piano. Of course, it’s a piano solo, so that in a way made it the most “appropriate” of my pieces to do so with. In addition, the use of spatial (proportional) notation negated in large part the benefit of composing in a notation program – because you can forget about accurate playback if you try that. Of course, I still had to put it in Finale later (and boy was that fun, let me tell you), but the actual composing was all done by hand.
To be perfectly honest, this piece didn’t arise without some (indirect) urging from the composition faculty at UNT. When I started this piece, I had recently been “reviewed,” and among some of the issues brought up, they seemed concerned about the possibility of me allowing a notation program (more specifically, what is easy and not so easy to do in one) to influence my writing. I had heard this attitude before from other avenues. This statement from them came particularly strong in light of the previous piece I had written, Pagan Dance – which, admittedly, was composed using a fair amount of Finale’s copy-paste function. So this piece was, in a way, my response to them. Because there’s many things you might be able to say about it as a composition, but no one could claim I had allowed a music notation program to make musical decisions for me, because I wrote it the “old-fashioned” way.
I was also though, at the time, interested in using spatial notation, so it all seemed to align pretty well. That’s also something I haven’t done since. Whether or not I use that again in a future piece remains to be seen.
As for the piece itself, I think it’s safe to say that composing it at the piano did allow some features to emerge that probably wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. My pitch language expanded quite a bit. I also change tempo a lot – in the metered sections, that is. In particular, though, my musical gestures became much more nuanced. There are definite moments in this piece that I still think are quite well done. I can’t say definitively if all this was due to me writing the piece at the piano, but it’s a safe bet to say that it had an influence. On a more negative side, it didn’t allow me to review elements such as pacing and overall form as well as I could have if I had composed it in Finale. Perhaps if I had been good enough at the piano to play through it that wouldn’t have been an issue, but I wasn’t. As a result, this piece remains my most episodic work. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s definitely something I moved away from.
Ultimately, though, I’m glad I wrote this piece. It was a necessary part of my development, and I think the strengths outweigh the negatives.
April 21, 2010: University of North Texas
For solo piano
Kris Peysen Composer