It’s no secret that the relatively recent collaborations with pianists Peter de Jager and Alex Raineri have been among the most productive and enjoyable of my career. Working with Peter de Jager has resulted in a series of works, the hundred-minute Piano Sonata, the one-minute AB1, and the three movement Sonata de Jager. This last consists of three free-standing solo pieces which, when played together constitute the Sonata, but can be performed independently: PdeJ 1: facetiae, PdeJ 2: austerer measures, and PdeJ 3: laminar flow. The final scores of the first two of these are still in preparation, although PdeJ 1 has already been premiered; they are complex and difficult works, and the process of engravure by the redoubtable Andrew Bernard is only partly done as yet —watch this space, as they say.
I embarked on PdeJ 3 after finishing the absurdly envelope-pushing . In fact, I had intended the two pulverising climaxes of chronology horizons to be part of PdeJ 3 but realised quite quickly, that what PdeJ 3: laminar flow required was waves of notes, not strings. Strings, sonic and cosmic, were much more the sort of thing that might inhabit a work called chronology horizons, and so I wrote another twenty-five-odd minutes of music to contextualise those strings—and do quite a lot of other things, besides–and a new piano piece was born, just not the one I had set out to write.
Chronology horizons is an extremely elaborate mosaic of interconnected lozenges of varied length, and operates by leaving incremental clues in the listeners’ memory that cumulatively illuminate the unfolding music …or to put it another way, it’s a kind of cryptic crossword for the ears. It was also exhausting to write—it is fully 74 pages long, and even in the robot MIDI ‘performance’ runs to about 26-7 minutes. When I returned my attention to PdeJ 3 I resolved to write quite another kind of piece, one which was neither so playfully subversive of expectations, nor as polarised between local and global structures, and far more concise. The result is a piece that is almost intelligible as an ABACA rondo, with two contrasting sections: B is a ‘blues’ and C a deafening ‘peal of bells’. PdeJ 3 also makes a structural point of quasi-minimalist repetition (although no New York Minimalist would tolerate such harmonic complexity) that serves to give the work two completely different timescales: the close-focus rapid, flickering, repetitive gestures; and the broader concertina-ing harmonic tempo.
I finished PdeJ 3: laminar flow on 6 March this year, having written it from first to last notes in under a month, for me an absurd acceleration of creativity. Peter de Jager has plans to perform it but as we are all aware, at least at the moment, there are very few opportunities for pianists to play in public, and the audio on this page is a MIDI realisation—a robot performance, but one which gives at least a sense of the piece’s character. Hopefully before long I will be able to post Peter’s performance as a recording on this page.
I mentioned Alex Raineri above: I wrote my—astonishingly—award-winning piece passing bells: day for him, and, before that, a heretical bagatelle called flex for AR, which reimagined some of the left-over material from the ensemble piece flux I wrote for Alex’s then group, the excellent Kupka’s Piano. Flex for AR surprised me once written; I unexpectedly discerned a clear resemblance to first-movement form in its otherwise rather abstract architecture. First movements tend to be followed by second-, and third- movements, etc, and I have resolved that flex for AR will be succeeded by another piece, unsurprisingly to be called AR 2-3-4, which will compress the three other movements of what will become known as Sonata Raineri into a single second piece. Thus both Peter and Alex will have their own eccentric sonatas. But that’s for 2023. More on that another day.