For Piano Duo

I usually have a particular musician’s sound in mind when I compose. My aural model for this work is my dear friend and colleague (pictured with me above) Dr. Pamela Haynes. My favorite of Pam’s many strengths is her ability to “voice” well on piano. This means she approaches the music more linearly than chordally. Her hands make the piano sing and phrase more than percuss. Pam is also a fierce pedagogue. So, with Pam’s voicing and her love of teaching in mind, I set some clear parameters as I conceptualized this piece:

  1. Goal: Whereas most piano duos are composed for pianists of equal skill level, make the Piano I part playable by a student, while keeping the PIano II part interesting and challenging for the teacher.
  2. Goal: Challenge students to think both linearly and vertically. Create melodies and counter-melodies the pianists need to pass back and forth seamlessly, while negotiating a backdrop of minimalist ostinato patterns. Require pianists to listen attentively and yield to one another expressively.
  3. Goal: Create an entirely diatonic piece. (That means zero altered tones; yea nary an accidental anywhere on the page. For me, this is a big challenge!)

The composition is entitled “Tapestry” because of the interweaving of melodic threads through a larger harmonic texture. Each movement is titled after two colored threads adjacent or near to one another on the color wheel (the way pianists sit when they play together), yet maintaining peculiar qualities all their own. MIDI-rendered recordings of each movement are below.

I. Sage and Ivory

II. Azure and Violet

III. Scarlet and Amber

I have to give credit to my daughter Abby (an art historian) who helped me identify specific color names for these movements based on my set goals, and my synesthesia (which will be the subject of a future blog post). It’s not as easy as it might seem. She is infinitely patient with my inability to describe what I hear and see vividly as color and texture in my head. In spite of my limited hue vocabulary, she offers thoughtful interpretations and translations for me. If you’re curious about synesthesia (or my own particular subset: chromesthesia, check out this linked article).