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One question I ask myself when writing music is “would I listen to this?” I make it a habit to record everything I write or improvise. I leave it alone for a while, and then listen again. If it’s not engaging to me while I’m driving my car, getting dressed, or cooking dinner, I toss it for something that is. My first computer piece, Un Jardin also became the piece that for a while I listened to far more than any other of my compositions.
I actually composed Un Jardin while writing a choral piece. The piece wasn’t going anywhere, so I took a break and started playing with Garage Band on my computer. I recorded overtones from my piano. I edited out the initial strike of the piano key and faded in the sound. Then I laid the recordings on top of each other, staggering them to create (unlike a piano, and more like a violin) a continuous sound.
Editing the gain, pan, and laying multiple tracks on top of each other were the only ways in which I used technology to alter the recordings. The first movement, “Un Jardin,” begins with the soft sympathetic vibrations of the piano (caused by me striking open fifths) and reaches a warm climax with the fundamental vibrations of the lower piano strings. In the second movement, “Ceres”, I created a grinding vortex of sound with a subtle, pulsating rhythm, sometimes with chords emerging from the stew of over 44 simultaneous tracks. I took a similar though less radical approach with the third movement, “Quasi Sostenuto,” this time giving the piece more of a harmonic quality.
Though modern sounding, the structure of my three-movement piece takes influence from classical archetypal forms to lead the listener on a journey. The arch-like first movement invites the listener into a hypnotically pensive soundscape and is followed by a “scherzo” of sorts in the second movement; the piece ends with the third movement returning the listener into a sublime meditative state before fading into nothingness.
I. Un Jardin
III. Quasi Sostenuto