PIANO CONCERTO: SINCE ARMSTRONG


Movements:
I. Freely - Allegro - Deep Purple - Allegro - Funk II. Rock Dance III. Allegro - Chamming - Dialogues - Honky-Tonk/Rag - Allegro - Raucous

Instrumentation:
Piano, full orchestra: 3 flutes (2nd doubles piccolo), 3 oboes, 3 clarinets (3rd doubles bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 3 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, tuba, 3 percussion: [1 - suspended cymbal, snare drum, slapstick, claves, wood block (high, medium), chimes, tom-toms (medium, low), timbales], [2 - marimba, vibraphone, chimes, snare drum, triangle, ride cymbal], [3 - tom-toms (high, low), bass drum, wood block, tam-tam (large), bongos, tambourine], timpani, piano, strings (one stand of double bass doubles electric bass)

Duration: 26 minutes

Commissioned By:
The Meet the Composer in Residence Program with funds from the Exxon Corporation

Premiere:
Janina Fialkowska, piano, and the Minnesota Orchestra, Kenneth Jean, conductor

Available From:
ECS Publishing (rental)

Composer's Notes:
Over the past few years, I have become increasingly preoccupied with the questions of evolved vehicles and the contemporary artist. What vehicles do we choose to transport the content of out vision? Which ones? Why? I have come to view the symphony orchestra as a paradigm for the twenty-first century. In this paradigm, we (audience and performers) witness again and again a large group of disciplined, talented, intelligent people coming together with the faith that through their combined efforts, led by a singular vision, they will produce and experience something of value. Value is a question of social validity. And it occurs to me that in the wake of post-1970’s changes in sound production, the value of the orchestra concert as it was before the 1970’s has changed dramatically. And while the vehicle of the orchestra concert and all its attendant forms, including the symphony, the concerto, the overture, the tone poem and the suite, remains of great value to us, the contents of the vehicle are in serious question. Should the musical language be tonal, or atonal? Does the question of tonality matter at all in the light of the synthesizer? Should the rhythm be western or eastern? And to whom is this question significant? Should the sound of an orchestra be purely acoustic? Or should we begin the task of incorporating an electronically treated instrumental choir into its body? Do we compose the music of our time for minds and ears only? Or may we reunite the five senses in the listening experience? In fact, if we do not reunite the five senses in the listening experience, will we lose the vehicle of the symphonic concert altogether?
 
I see the piano as the quintessential musical vehicle of our culture. It alone regularly transcends all the barriers of class, economy and religious belief in our country. Composers across genres have amplified their voices through this instrument in halls of all kinds to all kinds of audiences. It has been used as the purely essential contrapuntal-tonal machine in the music of the second Viennese School and its descendants. It has been used as an alternative guitar in the early rock and roll music of Chuck Berry, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, et al. It has literally telegraphed cultural messages in the music of rag-time. It is comfortably as monophonic as polyphonic, monometric as polymetric, tonal or polytonal as atonal. It is a one-design vehicle with cross-cultural potential. It is so potent that many people own the most expensive concert grand pianos for the sole purpose of reminding them of the meaning of discipline. On the other hand, you find pianos in shambles in places where they are played constantly and jubilantly by people with no formal training.
 
My piano concerto is a bit like a dinner party. The guests at the table include the contemporaries Louis Armstrong, Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg, Jelly Roll Morton and Robert Johnson. There are no singers, which accounts for the lack of women dinner guests. You are there too. After dinner, we pose this question to our guests: Look ahead to the last decade of the 1900’s. Who is the soloist and what is the piano concerto at the end of the 20th century? My piece, Piano Concerto: Since Armstrong is the conversation which results from our question.
 
To rent this piece, please visit ECS Publishing.


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