Unfathomable Things

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UNFATHOMABLE THINGS

15 Stories for Solo Piano

Description: Fifteen short works for solo piano. The music is about nature, meditations on time and space, walking, human connection and other unfathomable things. Every solo tells a story. Appropriate for advanced students, and solo pianists.

In 2018, pianist Donna Weng Friedman, who I had been working with on a chamber music project, arranged a commission for me — to write short piano solos for two of her talented teen students in her studio at Mannes Prep. I was honored that she thought of me to contribute to the repertoire specifically geared toward advanced piano students in their teens. I remember when I was that age, and couldn’t get enough of Gershwin’s Three Preludes, Debussy’s Nocturne, Chopin Preludes — each of these pieces, to me, told a story. I asked Donna if I could meet with her students to get to know them, find out what they were interested in, and what kind of music they enjoyed playing. Writing these pieces set me on a journey of my own, resulting in this volume, much of which I wrote during the “stay at home” year of the pandemic. Inspired by the music I loved as a young pianist, each of the solos has a story to tell.

QUIET POEMS (set) are three “songs to nature.” WATER CIRCLES describes the ripple effect when you throw a rock into a still body of water. A GESTURE is the lonely call to a person who is not there. NIGHT SOUNDS are those strange things you ear when everything is quiet but not really.

FOUR MOODS (set) were written for Donna’s students. UNWINDING was written for Annora, a high powered student, relished her time in the summer when she could relax and reflect. She is also a competitive fencer, and I wrote FENCE based on her description of the form. Natalie told me about her favorite spot by the ocean, seeing the moon on the water. REFLECTIONS is about the moon on the water, and LISTENING TO THE MOON is what I imagine it sounds like there in the middle of the night.

TRAVELING (set) was inspired by the 2020 pandemic. THE KITE was commissioned by my friend Lisa Rothe — I had been searching for a piece that would feature more linear writing, and we came up with the idea of flying a kite. Hopefully you’ll hear the effort of getting the kite to go up in the air, and the dance it does once it is there. CONVERGENCE was written in the spring of 2020 when we were all refraining from gathering indoors. Frequently I would leave my (uptown) apartment at the same time as my (downtown) friend would and we would meet in the middle. This music plays with the idea of coming from different directions and meeting up . . . somewhere. DRIVE was inspired by a picture taken by Kimberly Grigsby who was on a “no work in show-biz so I might as well take a” road trip in the Rocky Mountains. She comes around a corner, and there is a huge lake in the middle of the mountains. UNFATHOMABLE THINGS really describes the year 2020 to me. But the origin of the phrase came from a phone conversation I had with my sister-in-law, whose wife was in an Indian market when I called. I asked what she was buying, and Catherine said “Oh, unfathomable things…” I just had to use it as a title. The piece is about exploring the unknown. Finally DESTINATION is about arriving, about being where you are, about being grounded at the same time as feeling where you have been.

THREE WALKS (set) I wrote as a gift to my friend, conductor and pianist Kimberly Grigsby. Besides working together as conductor and composer, we take a lot of walks together, and this set of pieces are inspired by some of those walks. LOOP describes a regular route we take in Central Park. It’s the 6.2 mile perimeter of New York’s greatest jewel. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear me stop and take a stone out of my shoe. EVAPORATION ZONE is in honor of a walk we took on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs and had a conversation contemplating mortality and a life well lived. BRIDGE 2 QUEENS came about because she had a rehearsal in Queens and we decided to walk there just for fun. We met at Columbus Circle, and walked to the rehearsal studio in Long Island City. Walking over the grand structure of the Queensboro bridge felt epic, and a fitting end to this volume.

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