Five Ekmousikés for Solo Piano
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“Five Ekmousikés” is a multi-movement work composed for solo piano, dedicated to and to be premiered by my grandmother, Dr. Janet Bass Smith. Each movement in this work is programmatically tied to a piece of extra-musical art by Dr. Smith, consisting of three oil paintings and two poems. Chronologically, the movements are ordered “Sunset on Barren River Lake”, “Alone in Mammoth Cave”, “The Color of Death”, “Winter Peace”, and “Trifid Nebula”. As a child, I was often struck by paintings of my grandmother. I remember examining them with a sense of wonder - their use of color, substance, and texture leaving a deep impression on me at a young age. In “Five Ekmousikés”, I strove to celebrate the artistic achievements of my grandmother (musical and otherwise), acknowledge her influence on my own aesthetic, and attempt to capture the qualities of her art in musical form. The word “ekmousikés” is my own adaptation from the term “ekphrasis”, a literary technique used to create a verbal or rhetorical description of another work of art, typically from the visual medium. Each movement is intended as a musical analogue its corresponding work, as opposed to simply existing as music that was inspired by those works. This may be most obvious in the movement “Winter Peace”. The painting depicts an inhabited cabin, situated in a valley within a range of mountains. The cabin appears to be a small and meek human element in comparison to its rather looming surroundings, and a snowstorm blurs the landscape. I depicted this musically by writing a simple melody, representing the human element, and placing that melody “inside” of a louder and more harmonically volatile texture, symbolizing the overbearing landscape. The sustain pedal remains down the entire movement to blur the resulting sonorities in the same way the snowstorm blurred the mountainside in her painting. My thought processes in composing the other four movements of “Five Ekmousikés” were similar in manner. The texts for “Alone in Mammoth Cave” and “The Color of Death” are included prior to each movement in the score.
Table of Contents
Performance notes -- Score. Sunset on Barren River Lake ; Alone in Mammoth cave ; The color of death ; Winter peace ; Trifid Nebula