First Performances
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    Preface to Revised Edition
  Book Info
Table of Contents

Scores (Sample Pages)
Characters in a Row
   Bird Meets Frog
   Lost Puppy
   Three-Legged Elephant
Sonatina No.1
   Petite Rondo
Sonatina No.2
Songs Without Words
   After the Snowstorm
Five Modal Fingers

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 phrase.

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