RetroRhapsody for two pianos, two basses and percussion
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RetroRhapsody takes its inspiration from the culturally fascinating early-to-middle portion of twentieth-century American popular culture. Two of the biggest musical developments were, of course, jazz and rock 'n roll, and this piece attempts to capture some of the spirit and crazy (dance-infused!) energy of the day. It is written in honor of my parents, James and Julie Rivers, who are both professional pianists and composers. Cast in one movement (with contrasting sections), RetroRhapsody begins with a five-note motive which serves as a springboard for the rest of the piece. The main intervallic ingredients of this motive consist of a major second, a minor second, a tritone and a major seventh. The first three notes of this opening motive, the major/minor seconds, reappear throughout the entire composition in an almost obsessive fashion and are subjected to frequent variation/permutation, depending on the character of the music. In a sense this piece is a jazzy exercise in "developing variation," to quote Arnold Schoenberg. These opening intervallic relationships further expand to include octatonic sonorities which are a main feature of the section initiated by the vibraphone solo. The character of the piece, as alluded to earlier, is mainly that of dance music, and, as a quasi-stylized piece, it borrows certain rhythms and sonorities that were somewhat typical of the early jazz age, but it also offsets rhythms at key moments to maintain interest (a constant interplay of repetition and variation). The overall musical effect, the author hopes, is that these carefully calculated motivic modulations do not supercede, but rather serve to strengthen the joy and abandon of the dance, itself.
Table of Contents
Abstract -- Instrumentation -- Performance notes -- Acknowledgments -- RetroRhapsody