By Far (1995)
piano solo

Robert Morris

Program Notes

This piece was conceived in May 1995 just before I took a two week trip, hiking in Southeastern Utah. On the trail, I elaborated my original ideas from a short one-movement piece to a more extended three-part work. The three movements are progressive, each increasingly more complex, dense and extended. Like many of my recent pieces, By Far is a response to the landscape of the desert and what it evokes in me. The wild formations and open space find their counterparts in the character of the rugged piano writing and the ceaseless change of dynamics and texture.

Many years ago I came across the following quotation from a collection of essays by Edward Abbey:

In the desert I am reminded of...the bleak, thin-textured work of men like Berg, Schoenberg, Ernst Krenek, Webern and the American, Elliott Carter. Quite by accident, no doubt, although both Schoenberg and Krenek lived part of their lives in the Southwest, their music comes closer than any other I know to representing the apartness, the otherness, the strangeness of the desert. Like certain aspects of this music, the desert is also a-tonal, cruel, clear, inhuman, neither romantic nor classical, mo-tionless and emotionless, at one and the same time--another para-dox--both agonized and deeply still.

While the work of Schoenberg et al. does not sound thin or non-human to me, it was gratifying to find that others had sensed essential connections between new music and the wilderness.