A description of compositional and pedagogical devices within each piece
is provided below to give both the teacher and student a better understanding
of the music in this collection. . Minor adjustments to the text have been
added for the revised edition.
CHARACTERS IN A ROW is a set of five pieces, each of which
uses a different tone row and various pedagogical devices to animate the
character(s) of the title. The pieces range from beginning to lower-intermediate
level. Some of the compositions are easier to learn by rote.
BIRD MEETS FROG is a conversation between a bird (the right hand
playing staccato seconds and a frog (the left hand playing thirds or sixths
in two-note slurs). A variation of a twelve-tone row is presented every
three bars of the piece. Repetition occurs within the trills, and there
is also dynamic contrast between the hands. For early readers, this piece
is much easier to teach by rote.
LOST PUPPY illustrates a sad, weeping puppy that stands alone looking
for a familiar face. The piece is slow and soft, requiring dynamic control
and multiple voice-leading. There are grace notes falling from black to
white notes and multiple actions at the same time in the right hand where
one note is tied while another note is struck. One set of twelve tones is
repeated in the melody and chords.
SONATINA #1 is a mix of feisty folk dance rhythms found in Bartók
and chromatic counterpoint derived from the Baroque period, and is in typical
rondo form. It is suitable for an intermediate pianist.
ALLEGRO is rhythmically vigorous with strong peasant-like phrasings
found in Hungarian folk dance. While there is no polymeter in Allegro
there is a combination of up feels in one hand and down feels in the other.
The left hand has a down-up pattern both on and off the beat while the right
hand is sometimes synchronized with the left hand and sometimes not. It
is more as if this were a partner dance. Two patterns predominate: short-short-long
and long-long. The first pattern is a bouncing dance rhythm and the latter
is a landing or stomping dance rhythm at the end of a phrase.
MENUET follows the AABB form of a Menuet from the Notebook of
Anna Magdalena Bach. The contrapuntal lines are constructed with moment-to-moment
resolutions in each hand that shift from whole-tone to chromatic scales
or vice-versa. Odd intersections between hands lead to sudden shifts in
tonality or modality and upper-structure tones color the sound palette to
be slightly familiar but slightly odd at the same time.
PETITE RONDO is very straightforward, with consistent phrasings
and rhythmic patterns. It follows rondo form where the antecedent phrase
is the same interspersed with varied responses. The exact repetition of
the A theme plays through the mid to upper ranges of the keyboard. This
makes the piece easy to learn once the map is figured out. Early readers
would learn Petite Rondo easier by rote.
SONGS WITHOUT WORDS consists of three lyrical compositions
suitable for intermediate pianists.
TZIGANE contains a stable left-hand figure repeated at the beginning
of each metric downbeat in 6/8. The right hand sustains long, odd phrases
with various combinations of two and three groups that begin at various
points in the measure and cause a cross-metrical feeling between voices.
The left-hand pattern infers a G Phrygian modality but the right hand shifts
modalities throughout the piece with the use of tritones and half-step/whole-step
AFTER THE SNOWSTORM is a folk-like melody in F minor with a chromatic
basso-continuo left hand. The left hand has moment-to-moment resolutions
weaving in and out of tonalities throughout the piece emphasized by its
arpeggiated figures followed by two-note slurs in either upward or downward
HEARTSONG has a slow-moving lyrical melody which weaves into different
tonalities with its use of chromatic lines, melodic shaping and phrasing.
The left-hand arpeggiated figures color the melodic palette rather than
define the tonal structure. While the left-hand whole-note bass line shows
a clear line, the inner voices also have many voice-leading patterns that
add richness to the tonal fabric of the piece.
FIVE MODAL MELODIES is a series of short pieces, each in a different
mode. They all have odd poetic-dance phrasings indicated by slurs in combination
with cross-phrasings indicated by articulations. The tenutos and accented
tenutos indicate a down feeling, while the accents and staccato accents
indicate push-off and upward feeling.