It has been twenty-one years since First Performances was
originally released. This is the first time it is available to a wider audience.
The original book was created and printed while I was in graduate school
at New England Conservatory.
When I received the freshly printed books, I found that the printing was
substandard. I was devastated because I was unable to reprint the books
at the time due to my limited financial resources. I could not read all
of the markings and thus I distributed the books, with notational clarifications,
solely to my students. Finally, I have been able to revisit the book and
present it in a legible publication.
Since 1988 I have gained much insight as a composer, pedagogue and improviser,
which has greatly influenced my approach to teaching, composition and notation.
When the book first came out I had been teaching piano and composing for
only a few years and had not written much piano music. In addition, I had
been improvising for only a short time and had very little jazz training.
In this revised edition of First Performances, I have kept
the scores as close as possible to the originals, but have found that there
were some elements of the scores I needed to change in order to be congruent
with my current thinking about music and to clarify my intentions as a composer.
I did make one addition to the scores: the original book prior to publication
included Five Modal Melodies, but they were removed because of length.
I have decided to reinsert the pieces at the end of this edition. They were
written at approximately the same time as the other pieces, illustrating
certain kernels of ideas evident from that period which over the years have
become central to my concept in rhythm.
I have removed most of the fingering in the revised edition because I feel
that it is better for the pianist (and teacher) to choose fingering that
is most suitable for the size of one's hand and because I believe that it
is most organic for the musicians to engage in the process of choosing fingerings
that best serve the musical phrasing and their interpretation of the music.
After having studied Hungarian folk dance, I found that the Bartók
pieces in my early repertoire made much more sense once I understood the
traditional dance movements that supported his musical ideas.
I have since continued to find solutions for notating music in ways that
reflect the movements I feel in my music. My students and I typically do
full body dance movements that correlate to the music they are studying,
especially those pieces with existing dance forms. We follow with the same
movements in miniature with the hands on the keyboard.
In this edition of First Performances, my editors and I spent
much time tweaking the articulations and phrasings to correlate with the
dance phrases. In contrast, I also have included much music with little
specificity to allow the pianist to come up with their own phrasings and
artistic conclusions. I encourage my students to go beyond the notation
and create their own arrangements and personal interpretations of my music.
I certainly have done the same.
Because much of my music is rhythmically atypical, I attempted to solve
the problems of complex rhythmic groupings by using a combination of metrical
markings, slurs and articulations. It is easiest to understand my atypical
dance phrases by reducing them to units of two and three when they do not
fit the standard framework.
Twos always have an up and down or back and forth feeling and can be cut
in half at any beat level. Threes are always circular and are defined in
space to correlate with the number of groupings (i.e., two groupings for
6/8). When there is an indication of complex rhythmic structures within
a piece of music, each rhythmic grouping operates within its own sphere,
remaining independent from other groupings.
The performer should be careful not to mutate any particular rhythmic gesture
into another metrical sphere by interpreting an articulation at the beginning
of a rhythmic cycle as a syncopation, or vice-versa, as it would obliterate
the polymetric feel.
A slur indicates a phrase unit even when it does not coincide with the
metrical framework. A tenuto indicates a pressing downward at the beginning
of a rhythmic unit or a landing feel at the end of a phrase. A tenuto in
the middle of a slur grouping indicates a second rhythmic layering in the