Chicago Composers’ Consortium founding member Lawerence Axelrod presents his solo piano program to celebrate LGBT Pride Day.
Notes of Gratitude – Jennifer Higdon
Talking to Trees – Lawrence Axelrod
Preluding – Kurt Rohde
Groove II – LJ White
Monuments – Samuel Holloway
El Salon Mexico – Aaron Copland
Notes of Gratitude
This work was written for Linda Reichert. She was one of the very first people to commission the composer when she was still just a graduate student. Watching, listening and experiencing the history of the Network for New Music, with which Ms. Reichert has been associated, has been an honor and a pleasure for the composer.
Talking to Trees
This series of short pieces began as a pandemic project.
In March 2020, New York pianist Adam Marks put out a call for one-page pieces to composers. He would learn and record them in his living room and then post them online. In that odd quiet period, I took solace in the view of trees, then bare, in the park outside my building.
After I wrote the first piece, there seemed to be more to say. These beings who support us in so many ways kept speaking. So I wrote five more short pieces over the next several weeks, trying to connect to both the physical reality of the trees as well as the crucial role they play in the environment.
Groove II, much like series of paintings by visual artists, shares its primary material with several other works: a very short solo piano movement, Groove, and instrumental chamber works Groove Excursion, Groove III, Groove IV, and Groove V: a little wild and a little strange… It explores the use of a particular three-chord progression (a “groove”), while playing with characteristics including but not limited to the lengths of notes, the fullness of chords, and the location of rhythmic emphasis. The goal of composing this way, for me, is to create works that are engaging and propulsive, while at the same time unified, elemental, meditative, and maximally focused. A musical motive becomes, rather than a stepping stone to something new, an object to be fully examined and experienced in its own right.
That which comes before is fashioned to set the tone for what will follow. Not always, but sometimes.
Bach’s preludes to the fugues in the Das Wohltemperirte Clavier have always struck me as possessing a
multiplicity of possibilities, serving as “introductions” to the fugues that will follow, but also being the sinewy, tangled, unseen web connecting all the preludes in Books I and II. They are not just singular objects, stand-alones, but different organs in the anatomy of the body that is the complete collection, activated and alive.
The prelude becomes to prelude, or preluding; to be before-ing, reaching towards what follows, connecting
limb to body with motion, allowing it to proceed forward.
This short work is an examination of nineteen phrases of music with similar musical shapes. While there is a written tempo for a basic guideline, there is also the indication of molto rubato. A basic dynamic framework is suggested. Each phrase is a small, flexible, self-contained harmonic world, and also a part of the gentle contour of the whole piece.
El Salon Mexico
The work is a musical depiction of a dance hall in Mexico City called “El Salón México” In some inexplicable way, while milling about in those crowded halls, one really felt a live contact with the Mexican people — the atomic sense one sometimes gets in far-off places, of suddenly knowing the essence of a people — their humanity, their separate shyness, their dignity and unique charm. The work contains three musical styles and goes through the series of three twice, starting each time with the upper-class music, passing through a more vigorous working-class music, and ending with the foot-stomping dance of the peasantry.