Within Memory (2012-2014) for Cello and Piano

I. Andante, Atmospheric
II. Adagio
III. Ekstasis

May 9th, 2014
Mixon Hall
Cleveland Institute of Music

James Jaffe, cello
Shuai Wang, piano

I. Andante, Atmospheric

II. Expansively




April 22nd, 2012
Mixon Hall
Cleveland Institute of Music

Schuyler Slack, cello
Satoko Hayami, piano

I. Andante, Atmospheric




2010
Kulas Hall
Cleveland Institute of Music

Josué Gonzalez, cello
Allison Schmidt, piano

II. Expansively
The guiding concept for Within Memory is exploring memory as music. The music continually exists in its present sounding point, references music from before, and foreshadows what is to come. The concept of Within Memory necessitated a different compositional process than writing from beginning to end. Devolution, Scattered Rhymes, and Fragments of a Time and Place were all composed from beginning to end while Within Memory was not. The second movement was written first, followed by the first, then third. Sections of movements were also composed non-chronologically.

The second movement, being the first completed movement, begins with a low-register grace-note figure followed by the pianist smashing all the keys in the lowest octave of the keyboard. The grace-note figure contains a group of seven pitches from which all the music for the piece is generated. For instance, the opening of the first movement begins with the cello alone playing a melody that begins with the first five notes of the grace-note figure. The chords and arpeggiated gestures in the piano that accompany the melody are also derived from the grace-note figure by expanding some pitches into different octaves, then adjusting the added pitches to harmonize with the cello.

The use of the pedal throughout the piece is an interpretation of how resonance affects the present. Music sustained by the pedal continues to sound even though the piece has moved on linearly through time. With the pedal down, the piano string vibrate sympathetically with any sound coming from the cello and its immediate environment, adding it to the resonating sonority inside the piano. The residual sound continuing inside the piano become an acoustical representation of memory while the music sounding in the present simultaneously creates new memories that gradually fade into actual memory.

Having lived with the piece for a few years now, I have discovered relationships within the piece that suggest different directions the piece could take, much in the way Prokofiev sometimes leads the ear one way, then moves to another tonal level. While you hear the surprising shift, you still what is expected in your mind as a kind of phantom harmony. This psycho-acoustic effect, in a context of Within Memory approaches the question as to whether or not memory is a solipsistic phenomenon. To what extent is our present experience affected and remembered by the unpredictable way in which our memory works? When experiencing Within Memory, try to listen for the past of the piece as it moves inexorably toward its future.