Got a note from a cellist
looking for solo pieces to record for an upcoming CD. He wants to know if I have written any unaccompanied cello pieces.
I almost wrote him back saying I hadnít, but then I gave it another momentís thought and remembered I had three:
Dele 3: Independividual (1978)
Assault, assuage, assimilate (1992)
When I was nineteen, I wrote a cycle of pieces that took well-known masterworks and removed a majority of the voices, testing the limits of their coherence. I called them ďdecompositions,Ē and thought them quite witty and fascinating, in a conceptual way. Independividual
was the third of these pieces; it consists of the bottom voice of the B Major fugue from Bachís WTC I. I believe it was only performed once, by bassist Robert Black.
There was a time when I would have been horrified to have anyone know these pieces existed. Now, I find them interesting again Ė partly because they are so shamelessly sophomoric.
Ten years later, I wrote Monody
, which consists almost entirely of double-stops Ė the G-string sustained throughout, while a freely modal melody meanders over the entire length of the D-string. The cellist who premiered it hated it, possibly for good reason, although he wasnít exactly a patient man.
Then came Assault, assuage, assimilate
, a deliberately provocative title. Ass3
, as I like to think of it, has never been performed and, in fact, should not be performed Ė itís a piece that should only be recorded. Itís for seven cellos, all recorded by one performer. A solo cello begins with an abrasive, repetitive figure; the others enter one by one, gradually enfolding the aggressive line into a warm embrace.
So today I will respond to this cellistís request, but I havenít yet decided what to tell him. Options:
1. I donít have any solo cello pieces.
2. My solo cello pieces are all very old and no longer represent my compositional thinking.
3. I have three solo cello pieces: Independividual, Monody and Assault, assuage, assimilate. Would you be interested in one of them?
If I take the third option, Iíll be obliged to dig through the cobwebs to see if I can actually find them, a prospect I have little patience for. Which will I do? Gotta decide today.