Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Emotional and Musical Indulgence Through a Set of Piano Preludes

Mourning the loss of a family member is complicated and constant. It is an experience that doesn't really have "closure," because even when the person is no longer "there," the personal relationship that the living person has to the one who is no longer alive goes on. The retrospect becomes clearer and more in focus, even in the case of a person as complicated and unknowable as my brother Marshall.

Both Marshall and I "work out" our feelings by writing music. (I keep Marshall the composer in the present tense because music exists in the present tense.) I knew that the best way for me to work out the feelings I have about my brother would be to write music, but after his accident writing didn't come easily. During the Jewish High Holy Days, which began in late September, about a month and a half after Marshall's accident, I wrote a short piano prelude. I thought it might be a good idea to write one prelude for each month of the Jewish year and dedicate the set to the memory of Marshall. I imagine that Marshall would approve of this kind of tribute. There are thematic references to different aspects of the months that serve as a kind of skeleton for each prelude. Some are obvious, some are notated, and some are veiled. I know of no other set of calendar pieces dedicated to the months of the Jewish year. Perhaps this is the first.

My intention was to write one prelude per month. At first it was difficult, but it got easier. Then ideas started popping up for the rest of the year, so I abandoned my original plan and wrote the final four preludes before we even reached the month of Sevan (which begins May 20). Now the set is finished, and it is in the IMSLP.

Here's the first page:

And the last page:

I adapted one of Marshall's fugue subjects so it wouldn't modulate, and used it as the opening material of the final prelude. I mingled it with the fugue subject from Marshall's favorite fugue, the E minor one from the second book of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (you can see it above as the pickup to measure 26). Then I brought the piece to an end too soon.

Somehow it feels right to share this piece in this way.

No comments: