Sonata (1999) for piano

Duration: 20 minutes


Certain works for piano have deeply affected me and my development as a composer: the Ligeti Etudes, the Ives Sonatas, and many of the early Cowell pieces. I've also long been fascinated by many jazz pianists, most notably Thelonius Monk, Marcus Roberts, and Keith Jarrett.

But at the same time that Sonata schizophrenically connects to these varying styles of piano writing and playing, it is also deeply concerned with new approaches to musical form. Each of the work's four movements takes a different approach to building and transforming musical material via a process. The first movement, "Transitions," is largely based on a simple four-chord progression; pitches derived from this progression are developed in imitative sections which gradually change harmonically and texturally. The second movement, "Terzanelle," is based on the interlocking rhyme scheme of the poetic form of the same name. The third movement, "Recursion", creates a self-similar musical structure by taking a simple idea (A B A C) and applying it at multiple different levels, ranging from the entire movement's structure to the choices of individual melodic notes. The final movement, "Syntax", uses an ordered set of eight pitches and various transformations of it, but also returns to some of the imitative techniques of the first movement.

Performance History

  • Aspen Music Festival; Aaron Epstein, piano, August 1998; Aspen, Colorado [I only]
  • Yale College Group for New Music; Aaron Epstein, piano, November 1998; New Haven, CT [I only]
  • ComposeNY; Aaron Epstein, piano, March 1999; New York City [I only]
  • Columbia Composers; Heather O'Donnell, piano, November 1999, New York City
  • Yale College Group for New Music; Heather O'Donnell, piano, December 1999, New Haven, CT
  • Society of Composers, Inc. National Student Conference (I only); Wendy Lee, piano, March 2000, Ann Arbor, MI
  • June in Buffalo; Stephen Manes, piano, June 2000
  • Society of Composer, Inc. National Conference (II only); Lisa Leong, piano, February 2008, Atlanta, GA.
  • Spivey Hall (II only); Lisa Leong, piano, March 2008, Atlanta, GA.
  • Bent Frequency (IV only); Lisa Leong, piano, May 2008, Atlanta, GA.