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Hocket Variations, for piano and prepared piano, 1978
Instrumentation: Pn, Prepared Pn
Duration: ca. 30:00 min.
- for Piano and Prepared Piano (1978)
"Hocket Variations for Two
Pianos" was commissioned by the Michigan Music Teachers Association and
was composed during August and September, 1978.
Although no theme is stated at any
point in the composition, certain rhythmic, melodic, harmonic, textural, and
formal elements are introduced, repeated, and varied throughout. Some of the
more important of these elements are: hocket (a compositional device perfected
in the middle ages consisting of the rapid alternation of two or more voices
or instruments with single notes or groups of notes) and pointillism (a twentieth-century
manner of composition in which single notes or small groups of notes are separated
or isolated by musical space, timbre, dynamics, rests, etc.)-the two
of which should be regarded as closely related in this composition; the opening
chords of Variation 1 (which, incidentally, is only one measure in duration);
the long series of pitches which is first stated in Variation 2; repeated notes
and chords played accelerando (first found at the end of Variation 2)
. . . ; the melodic and harmonic material first stated in Variation 3; the pitch
class B-natural and the E major triad; and, trills and grace notes (first stated
in Variation 6). It is hoped that even on first hearing a careful listener will
recognize most of these elements much of the time when they are present in the
work. As a successful performance of this composition unfolds, a creative and
sensitive listener should intuitively or subconsciously construct an abstract
"theme" (i.e., collection of compositional constants). So this work
is, in a sense, a theme and variations.
Most of the variations are for two
pianos, Piano I being "prepared" (i.e., physically modified, in this
case by placing plastic screw anchors between the wires of all of the double
and triple strings) to help clarify the hocket passages and provide timbral
richness. Of the 20 variations three (5, 10, and 16) are for one piano. These
solo variations not only provide some timbral and textural contrast, but also
serve to introduce and recapitulate materials for two groups of variations.
In homage to the Goldberg Variations
Variations 11, 14, and part of 15 of "Hocket Variations" are canons.
However, the canons in Variations 11 and 15 are unmetered, and all three canons
are as much timbral-textural-rhythmic "effects" as examples of strict
counterpoint. (October, 1978)
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