Circles for Four Hands

The thematic material that pervades Circles emerged initially in a piano score for a wind ensemble piece which California State University, Chico commissioned from me in the summer of 2005. (Perhaps, as an aside, I offer this experience to my composition students: never write a piano score and then orchestrate it—always write for the instruments you intend to perform your piece). Unsatisfied with the end result, I have looked back to this piece ever since, trying out this material in other works. At least 50% of the material in the original has been scrapped for being tedious, boring, predictable, or otherwise trite. Yet the central thread has remained intact, and perhaps strengthened. While the original is more rhythmically regular than most of my current work (where time signatures may literally change by the measure), my fascination with rhythmic layering began in this piece.
After the timbral exploration of disintegrating clusters in the low range of both pianos which opens the piece, the main theme emerges. A drone-note slowly expands in intervalic space, reaching a climax before collapsing in upon itself. The quarter-note triplet motive, which saturates the reminder of the piece, is also revealed in this introduction, and gains momentum as this rhythmic idea traverses the range of the pianos into the stratosphere. What follows is a playful interaction of two simple polyrhythms: two-against three and three-against-four. Intermediately [Do you mean intermittently] the ominous opening material collides against these polyrhythms. In the largest sense, the piece is a simple A-B-A form, and these circular qualities to the piece emerge in both large and small scale forms, in rhythmic contexts, and in thematic pitch material.