My piece wed is from a larger series of piano works, called "memory pieces." These eight pieces were all written between the years 1992-1997 and may be played separately or together. They were each written after the death of someone close to me, someone with whom I had a relationship that I wanted some way to hold on to. They are as follows:
Cage in memory of John Cage
Spartan Arcs in memory of Yvar Mikhashoff
Wed in memory of Kate Ericson
Grind in memory of Jacob Druckman
Diet Coke in memory of Bette Snapp
Cello in memory of Anna Cholakian
Wiggle in memory of Frank Wigglesworth
Beach in memory of David Huntley
Kate Ericson, to whose memory wed is dedicated, was a young conceptual artist and a close friend of my wife. In her hospital bed, just before she died, she was married to her boyfriend and longtime collaborator, Mel Ziegler. A wedding is usually a joyful event, full of hope and optimism, but this wedding of course had something much darker hovering around the joyfulness. In my piece, the four independent lines of the piano part are made of small changes - a half step up, a whole step down, and each line by itself is not that interesting. Put together, however, they allow the music to rock oddly back and forth between major and minor, between consonance and dissonance, between hope and despair.
One of the horrifying things about growing older is that your friends don't all grow older with you. People get sick and then they die. You watch, you try to comfort them, and then you try to comfort yourself. The true horror is that after a while your memories begin to fade. How long can you hold on to the sound of a voice, the memory of a strange event, a bittersweet feeling, a silly story?
I was friends with all the dedicatees of the enclosed set of pieces - some were closer friends than others - and I have very personal memories of my dealings with them that I don't want to fade. Each of these little pieces highlights some aspect of my relationship with each friend. I hope this will help me hold on to these memories just a little while longer.
There are a few ways to approach these pieces. In one respect they are inventions, each an intellectual and philosophical exploration of one distinct, mechanical way to make music. They are also little etudes, as each one highlights a different technical concern, such as overlapping arpeggios (Spartan Arcs), polyrhythmic counterpoint (Wed) or strange cross-hands (Cello). The way I choose to look at them is as laboratories for larger works. If I can incorporate the music or the ideas or the techniques of these little pieces into other works then I am in some way keeping something of my friendship alive.
I would like to thank the different pianists who have either premiered one or more of these works or who have offered advice about how to edit or present these pieces - David Arden, Carlo Boccadoro, Anthony de Mare, Moritz Eggert, Lisa Moore, Andrew Zolinsky. Most of all I want to thank Yvar Mikhashoff - I was writing Yvar a piece when John Cage died (12 August 1992). I put that piece aside and wrote Cage, which Yvar then played several times. Yvar was already ill then and it was his idea that I write a series of memorial pieces. If there is any one person to whom this entire set should be dedicated, it is Yvar.