In previous blogs, I have mainly discussed how I work in my composition studio and how things generally occur during my creative process. It is interesting to look back on my work habits and this process and listen to the end results.
So in this post, I discuss a set of piano pieces that I have recently completed titled Toiles. I started sketching ideas for these pieces during a quiet time in 2014. I had previously spent a great deal of time exploring how non-traditional modes and chords successions might work together to create unique sets of sounds and sound successions. After working out several variations and possibilities for what I call my new voice, it was time to set out on the creative adventure of composing music with these soundscapes.
Toiles is a set of seven pieces for solo piano. Composed over a two year period, these seven pieces make use of the various modes and successions previously discussed. Each piece explores a different version of what I call my voice all while revisiting material from other pieces in the set in such a way as to create the coherence and unity needed in multi-movement works.
The first completed piece is actually the second piece in the set. Brouillard Matinal Translucide depicts the light fog slowly floating over a calm river in the wee hours of the morning. In this piece I explore the full range of the piano through whole-tone modal material and dominant 7th colours in successions.
Inspired by Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie, this piece explores lush harmonies and flowing gestures emulating the calmness of the early mornings of late October. The open and large harmonies emulate the vast scope of this magical mist that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. The melodic material in the contrasting section, a simple melody over a flowing run of 16th triplets emulating the soft waves of the river.
The first piece of the set Danse des feuillues is the result of 14 progressive sketches over the span of two years. First, a piece lasting only 30 seconds was meant to act as a sort of interlude between the actual pieces. As time went on and other pieces took shape, it became clear that my initial formal concept would create imbalance throughout the work. So after more than a year of having this piece performed, it was to undergo significant change.
The contrasting sections added to Danse des feuillues brings a breath of fresh air and added energy to the initial material. The contrasting triple meter creates a slight discomfort at first but easily settles the listener within a few measures.
Jeux de lueurs verdâtres, the third piece in this collection, depicts the Northern Lights. Light textures of modal colours interplay throughout the first section creating what one might perceive as dancing reflections of light in the northern sky.
The indication avec mouvements légers refers to the slight tempo fluctuations that occur throughout the piece emulating the flowing and swaying of the lights. The contrasting material in this piece comes from the next piece in the set, sort of foreshadowing. The ensuing development section plays with dominant 7th chord successions over a whole-tone mode.
Ballade des feuilles d’automne integrates my new voice throughout what I consider traditional harmonic writing. Here the new voice material serves as transitions or short development sections leading to a new centre. The idea here was to discover how my voice could blend into or sway in and out of play in a piece of music. At this point in the creative process, I understood that what would make my sound unique couldn’t be the avoidance of traditional modal or tonal sounds as a way to impose my new sound as my trademark. I would have to find a way of incorporating more traditional sounds within my new voice as a way of contrast.
Ruissèlement Printanier brings into play minimalism as a way of creating the ebbing motion of waves and water flow. The first three bars of the piece presents what becomes the accompaniment of the entire piece.
The first bar on its own presents the full melodic sequence of the accompaniment. The next two bars are actual repetitions with rhythmic variations. The sixtieth notes in the first three beats of each bar are displaced creating a sense of flowing waters with varied wave patterns. From bar four on, this three bar introduction becomes a sort of passacaglia. The melody is taken from sections of Brouillard matinal translucide. The grace note run leading to the first note also finds its way in Jeux de lueurs verdâtres. The melody in duple meter over the compound meter passacaglia also works to create the ebb and flow of moving water.
La dernière heure d’automne is somewhat a return to the first piece of the set. It shares much of the same melodic motifs. It almost acts as a kind of development or variation for the first piece.
We find ourselves in triple time as opposed to the duple meter of the Danse. The melodic contour of Danse is preserved as the rhythm is modified to fit the new meter. In the contrasting section, I also bring back and develop the accented second beat material from Danse which leads to an ascent in tension. I end the piece with a long sustained pedal to emulate the dreaming sense of both pieces.
La chasse des hirondelles is a short energetic piece that tells the story of sparrows chasing each other as spring arrives again. One can find certain motifs or elements from Jeux de lueurs verdâtres as a means to great a relation between the dancing lights and the dance like movements of sparrows in flight.
The overall structure of this set of pieces has a much larger symbolic significance. Everyone of these pieces depicts events that occur in nature on a daily basis. More importantly, everyone of these events occur simultaneously each day somewhere on the globe. The unity and coherence throughout this work is not a musical necessity but a philosophical one.
En quelque part une hirondelle voltige au-dessus du brouillard matinal à l’aube fugitive de l’automne pendant que le ruisseau sous ses ailes transporte la vie à un lieu lointain où les lueurs verdâtres dansent dans le ciel au crépuscule de la nuit.