Piano Suite in Three Movements, Movement I, by Matthew Holman

August 28, 2013

This recording consists of the first movement of Matthew Holman’s piece, Piano Suite in Three Movements. This piece was written for, and performed by, pianist Tysen Dauer at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. This recording consists of the live premiere of the piece at Matthew Holman’s second doctoral recital. This recital took place in the recital hall of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s Westbrook Music Building. The piece itself is a challenging, pandiatonic work, meant to evoke feelings of excitement and adventure in the first and third movements, and a sense of forward moving contemplation in the second. The piece was written so that each movement can be played with the other two or simply stand alone by itself. The duration of the piece is between approximately twelve to fourteen minutes, depending on the tempi used by the performer.

Recording Date: April 7, 2013
Recording Location: University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Ensemble Type: piano solo
Duration: 0:04:33
Performer: Tysen Dauer

About the Music

Composer: Matthew Holman
Instrumentation: piano
Place of Composition: University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Score:available here
Music Styles: Classical, Popular styles, Tonal/modal, Pandiatonic

In the Spring of 2013, when I was first asked to compose an original piece for my good friend and colleague – the talented and remarkable pianist Tysen Dauer, I knew such a task would be an acutely interesting challenge. Unlike many of the musicians I had previously worked with, Tysen had an acute interest in new music, and its relation to the times we live in. 

It goes without saying that a work of art is a product of the time it was created in, reflecting the beliefs, values, philosophies, and important life events particular to the societies from which these works sprung. To be sure, only Beethoven could have written the Symphonies he did. Only Palestrina could have written his Masses. Only Mozart could have written his Don Giovanni. If you doubt the truth of these statements, ask yourself this question – why are there no visible composers of celebrity status creating works in these exact styles? Surely, if the pieces of old are truly the monumental works of genius, bequeathed to us purely by the artistic generosity of a pantheon of dearly departed demigod composers, which are entirely timeless in their construction (and thus still relevant today), there would be someone… anyone… who would still be visibly and noticeably creating works indistinguishable to those of the aforementioned compositional deities. That there are really no such contemporary composers is not at all surprising. We live in different times than Mozart, Beethoven, and Palestrina. Thus it is only natural to conclude that the works of today are the only pieces that are truly relevant to the society of today – and there is no other choice than for this to be true.

Eventually, time will pass, and the works of today will give way to the works of tomorrow, and slip into their necessary irrelevance to the people of that time. I am under no illusion that many of today’s composers (myself included) will certainly fail to ascend to the godhood status reserved for those who have been deemed , by a small minority of intelligentsia, to be history’s driving forces – regardless of the listenability of the work being produced.

Thus, for this project, I concluded that it was necessary to create a work that could only have been written by me, and only at this point in history. As such, I chose to eschew much of the traditional harmonic thinking that permeates so much music from the Baroque through the beginning of the twentieth century. So too did I eschew the variety of modernist constructive techniques employed by composers from the twentieth century up until today. For a piece that is specific to this time, neither the strident rules of the strict tonality of the distant past, nor the directionless, meandering, neigh unlistenable ‘wrong note music’ of the more recent past and present would suffice.

In my piece, I focused on creating individual sonorities that were either consonant or dissonant with each other, depending on how they needed to act in relation to one another, without regard to their specific harmonic function or overarching structural implication. The rhythms and tempo of the first movement, I decided, needed to be driving, but occasionally contrasted with other material. The result was an eminently listenable movement that evokes strong feelings of adventure, passion, excitement, and wonder. The movement contrasts with this, being more peaceful in nature, but with a strong underlying forwardness to it. The third movement returns to the ideas of the first, but has a much more frantic and aggressive tone to it. The formal structures in each movement change as they need to, but not unnecessarily – the forms are dictated by the current character of the music, and whether the present endeavor has worn out its welcome. Overall, creating the piece in this manner led to a multitude of surprising, and enjoyable moments.

When the piece was first performed at my second doctoral recital, it was remarkably well received. Both Tysen and I received numerous complements about the performance. Through this experience, I realized that I had created a piece that stands as a worthy addition to the contemporary repertoire, and is one that is truly relevant to our current time.

Piano Suite in Three Movements, Movement I


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