Devolution (2014) for Piano Trio

I. Lithely
II. Adagio
III. Vivace

First movement premiered in October 2012 Kandinsky Trio
Benedict Goodfriend, violin
Alan Weinstein, cello
Elizabeth Batchelder, piano

Squires Recital Salon at Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia

Premiered on May 9th, 2014
Mixon Hall
Cleveland Institute of Music
Cleveland, Ohio

Michelle Abraham, violin
Quinn Kalmansson, cello
Shuai Wang, piano


I. Lithely


II. Adagio

III. Vivace



Devolution was commissioned by the Kandinsky Trio in celebration of their 25th anniversary in 2012. I was told that it would be programmed along side the Brahms B major Piano Trio in case I wanted to craft a piece that referenced Brahms's music in more of less obvious ways. The fast-slow bipartite form of the compact first movement is balanced by the three-part slow (slow-fast-slow) and Vivace finale that relaxes in the middle, preparing an exuberant finish.

While not quoting any one part of the Brahms B major Trio overtly, I sought to integrate Brahms's music into the texture of Devolution. Like threads in a fabric, I wanted to compose the piece so when you step back and look at the swatch, you are only vaguely aware of the fact that different threads create the single material. However, if you are familiar with the B major trio, you may detect a tenuous connection in the appoggiatura figure that is prominently featured in the memorable opening of the B major Trio.

Additional musical threads woven into the fabric of Devolution come from Devo's Whip It, hence the title: Devo-lution. Using material from Whip It is a nod to the Kandinsky's in show of appreciation for their generosity in regularly commissioning works throughout their career, as well as to their famous sense of humor. As an encore at one of their many concert I hear at Roanoke College, they performed a student arrangement of Whip It. Devo's song is more subtly integrated into Devolution than the Brahms. Most of the vocal melodies in Whip It stay within the interval of a second. The second exists throughout the piece as the main building block of melodies and chords. Devolution is tonally centered around B and C#, giving the most tonal gravity toward pitches drawn from B major.