flex for AR



for piano

7 minutes

The route by which I proceed from dim vision of a potential musical utterance to finished article tends to be fairly similar from piece to piece. A notion occurs to me that suggests a possible sonic realisation, and usually provides a working title. I then forge a structure that will effectively convey that notion, generate some harmonies, calibrate the temporal relationships, and crack out the manuscript paper.

Flex for AR didn’t follow this pattern. When I got to the end of my piece flux, written for and performed by the Brisbane ensemble Kupka’s Piano, I found myself with some leftovers, the skeleton of an entire section of that piece that had proved to be surplus to requirements. Alex Raineri was the pianist in Kupka’s Piano and when he asked me, a year or so later, to provide him with a shortish piano work, I was reminded of the flux flotsam, and it occurred to me that, rather than embarking on an entirely new project, I could realise the leftover material as a separate piece. As I worked on it I incorporated reminiscences of the piano writing in flux, but subjected to a certain amount of structural amplification and embellishment, so this new work became ‘a flexing of flux’, or more properly, flex for AR, one of my set of heretical bagatelles. Or, as my program note for the piece simply says: “…ex-flux = flex”.

I approached writing flex with a certain amount of trepidation; I had, only a year or two previous, finished a 100-minute Piano Sonata which I viewed as the last word on my own instrument, a kind of ne plus ultra of my pianistic imagination. What could follow a ‘last word’? Fortunately, my anxiety was unnecessary, the pre-existing structure suggested interesting realisations and textural flights that ended up being quite distinctive. In fact, writing flex gave me the confidence to move on to writing passing bells: day in 2019, also for Alex Raineri, a half-hour long companion piece to my passing bells: night of 2004.

The structure that flex inherited from flux had an unexpected feature. It was not until after completing the entire piece that the revelation struck me that it was a close approximation to, of all things, sonata-form. I was already in the process of writing a set of three pieces for another pianist friend, Peter de Jager, and had designated them, when played together, as the Sonata de Jager. This new insight into the organisation of flex led me to the idea of providing it with companions to make a Sonata Raineri, for Alex. So, regarding flex for AR as ‘AR1’, there will eventually be a second movement provisionally entitled AR2, which will compress three subsequent “sonata-ish” sections into a single arch.

Unerhörte Musik
7 February 2023

flex for AR [Alex Raineri] (7′) (2017)