for two pianospart 3 of "Inner Life", a cycle of works for two pianos (2022)
|Written for Quattro Mani (Susan Grace and Steven Beck)
|November 9, 2022; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Quattro Mani
My attraction to the two-piano medium goes back to 1962, when I was a freshman at Lawrence College in Wisconsin. Olivier Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod performed his Visions de l’amen there while on an American tour, and I conversed with Messiaen briefly. This was a memorable event for a fledgling composer. Many years later, I arranged my orchestral piece Quiet Music for two pianos, and the two-piano duo Quattro Mani performed and recorded it brilliantly. This experience revived my early attraction to the medium and motivated me to compose a cycle of three pieces for it, all dedicated to Quattro Mani.
Embedded Loops (2020) lasts about 20 minutes. Each of its ideas begins in embryo, expands, and then contracts in modified form back to its starting point. This process happens on multiple levels, including the overall form, in which the second half mirrors the first. Throughout, each piano proceeds as if independently but overlaps with material from the other piano to generate a web of counterpoint. The writing exploits the piano’s large registral range and capacity for resonance.
Inner Life (2021), commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation, is in one movement of about 23 minutes. Inspired by internal monologues in Joyce’s Ulysses, it simulates in musical terms the agitation and flow of my inner thought processes. Ideas evolve and revolve, often in varying order and approximate transposition, with moods veering from playful whispers to violent climaxes. A recurring gamelan-like refrain reestablishes balance as the formal cycles expand and contract to the point of origin.
Solitude (2022), five minutes long, is a reflective coda to the fireworks of Embedded Loops and Inner Life. Like the other two pieces, it expands and contracts asymmetrically, this time following a strict temporal process.
This cycle is my pandemic work. Forging its world of intricate expressive forms was a refuge of the imagination during this strange and solitary time.
– Fred Lerdahl