Pari Passu
violin and percussion

Robert Morris

Program Notes

Pari Passu was written in the fall of 1988 at the request of the violinist Todd Reynolds and is dedicated to him and Rob McEwen, the percussionist who played the premiere, in April of 1989.

The piece's title describes the action between the two players one of equal pace or progress, side by side, neck and neck. This suggestion of duality is literally borne out since each player plays his/her own characteristic material and gestures. Nevertheless, certain kinds of musical articulations (dynamics, timbres, gestures) allow one player literally to quote the materials of his/her opposite number at the same time. Thus, the piece's conceit is ironic; the modes of realization that usually induce musical autonomy are used to diminish one player's musical singularity by association with the other player.

Pari Passu lasts approximately ten minutes and is in four basic sections. A slow but impulsive opening gives way to a quicker but steadier section which gradually grows in intensity and scope. After a number of highly passionate moments, the second part reaches a kind of cadence (molto ritardando) which announces the third part, often dominated by col legno batutto in the violin and large, sonorous chords in the vibraphone. A brief but extremely slow passage bridges the move from the third to the fourth and last section. This Webern-like vignette, despite its tiny dimensions, holds the most obvious presentation of the independence/dependence duality of the work; what is sequential in one instrument, is contrapuntal in the other. Moreover, these two aspects of the texture are the core of the respective materials of the two players. The resultant disclosure perhaps, more than anything else, warrants the character of the last section: rash, extravagant, and hurried.