Little Orchard (2009)

I. Walnut
II. Plum
III. Quince
IV. Kumquat
V. Pumpkin
VI. Barley
Claude Monet, “Orchard in Bloom”

I completed Little Orchard for Zuzanna Szewczyk in January, 2009, and composed it to exhibit her sensitive and dynamic performing. It is in six movements, each devoted to one of my favorite fruits, nuts, or grains. The composition is in an alternate temperament – in this piece the perfect 12th (an octave and a fifth) is taken as “equivalent,” in the same sense we take the octave as equivalent normally. This means that instead of 12 pitches per octave, here there are 19 per perfect 12th.

The entire piece is composed out of six simultaneous (and very slow-moving) 19-tone rows. The piano is split into four registers, and I voice each of the 19-tone rows with a characteristic registral “doubling,” using each possible pair of registers once: 1) high and medium-high, 2) high and medium-low, 3) high and low, 4) medium-high and medium-low, 5) medium-high and low, and 6) medium-low and low. Dyads from a row which is doubled between adjacent registers – sounding a perfect 12th – will be easiest to hear due to the salient nature of that interval in the piece.

The rows work in counterpoint such that I can take, say, 6 adjacent notes from one row, 5 from another, and 4, 3, and 1 note(s) from three others, to make a collection of the 19 tones in the temperament. Each movement is composed from just one of these 19-tone “aggregates.” Since the rows move slowly, one might hear some “frozen register” and composed-out static harmonies. The whole piece might sound a little “fifthy,” since the nature of the temperament and the rows emphasizes sounds we normally associate with perfect fifths.