On the Drawing of Constellations for piano

September 26, 2013

Program Note

The constellations tell us not about the stars but about those who gaze at them. The stars in any given constellation are lightyears apart, and are unrelated except that they are linked by our perception. The title refers not to astrology nor astronomy in the traditional sense, but rather to the creative act of connecting the stars into symbols, animals, or other objects. Like the stars, the individual pitches in this piece are rather isolated, and yet, they are bound together in time and space, and given meaning by our perception. Some of the harmonic relationships are universal whereas others are more obscure and will be perceived differently by every listener.
This piece was written for Nicholas Phillips’ American Vernacular project. The drawing of constellations is, of course, a vernacular science and art; one which is understood by all humans alike. More than that, I began composing with what I consider the American musical vernacular, triads. The principle motive begins with a B major triad, before spiraling away into more obscure harmonies. In measure 56, the music arrives at two other major triads, Eb and Db. The pitch context established in the piece is not traditionally tonal, nor completely triadic, but this was the initial conception from which the piece grew.

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