Brush (2011)
viola and piano

Robert Morris

Program Notes

Brush for viola and piano was written in the summer of 2011 for violist Rudolph Haken.

Many of my pieces are influenced by outdoor experiences such as hiking where one encounters the “suchness” of nature--its terrain, flora, fauna, sights and sounds. Certainly, it is wonderful to be within an expansive unlimited space. However, in wilderness, traveling is more difficult because there are no set paths or guide posts. One often has to find the way as one encounters and passes through local obstacles in the form of bushes, small trees, vines, and low growing plants.

When I completed my composition for viola and piano I thought about the musical experience I had created, and I found that it reminded me of forging of a path through an overgrown forest or field. The character of the ever changing pizzicati and glissandi in the viola and the play of registers in the piano suggested a kind of musical surface that invites parsing by the players and listener; events come at you that you negotiate one by one, creating a path as you go along. The interesting thing is that each time one plays or listens, the path has to be created anew, yielding new paths and associations. And like bushwhacking in the wilderness, the experience is quite athletic.

But brush can also be tamed, as in brushwood gates and fencing. So Haiku poems like the following also capture other aspects of the suchness of my piece.

A brushwood gate

For a lock,
This snail.

Against the brushwood gate,
It sweeps the tea leaves: