NOTES ABOUT VEIL
The music on this CD represents chamber music I’ve written over the past 20 years. They are presented chronologically not just as a simple organizational approach, but also because when taken as a sequence they tell a relatively coherent story of my own personal trajectory as a composer. The first two pieces, Veil and Thread and much of the first movement of After Ending are examples of the approaches I took to writing music early in my career. At the time, I was full of confidence and enthusiasm for concert music, and felt like I had a clear view of what I was doing and why. These pieces all share a use of very strong contrasts of material, a lot of blending of instrumental timbres, and an exploration of color and non-traditional effects.
However, around the time of the third piece, Sono Solo, I went through a series of major changes in my personal life, and whether due to those events or just in tandem with them I began to have a lot of doubts about, and in fact an outright aversion to writing concert music. For a number of years I didn’t really write any at all, turning instead to electronic music, mixed media projects, popular music, performing, anything really other than traditional composing. Sono Solo reflects all this in its complete absence of strong contrasts and coloristic effects and its tone of contemplation and restraint.
Then, a few years ago my friend and colleague John Perrine asked me to write a saxophone and piano piece for him. Rather than begging off, for some reason I said okay and was pleased to find I enjoyed composing again. Now’s the Time, the fourth piece, was the result. A year later I received an in-house grant from Cleveland State University to have some pieces recorded for release, and partnered with the superb Ars Futura Ensemble to make this CD. Part of the project was the writing of a new piece for Ars Futura, which became the last piece, After Ending.
VEIL (2001) was written for the Earplay ensemble of San Francisco. Around this time several family members had died and I wanted to commemorate their passing. The piece can be heard as many different responses to grief and loss. The four instruments are divided into smaller groups for the majority of the piece, only coming together as a whole in the climactic final section.
THREAD (2002) is based around sustaining a single pitch—A natural—through a changing series of musical textures. Towards the middle of the piece the A gets “lost” and is the only note left out of the proceedings until the very end, when it is re-discovered. I didn’t have a conscious specific meaning behind this plan, but there are surely many times in life when we lose the thread of our purpose, only to have it re-emerge after some struggle.
SONO SOLO (2011) was written for the Slee Sinfonietta of Buffalo. As I mentioned above, I was going through a period of profound doubt about composing concert music of this kind, and finding ideas that seemed fresh very hard. Somewhat in desperation, I thought I might generate a bit of material by improvising at the keyboard and “recording” it via a notation program to see where that might lead. I played for a while, and then as I listened back to it, I liked it more and more, even though it was quite simple music. Almost all of the finished piece is based on this initial improvisation. The piece begins with the piano providing all of the musical material, and the other instruments merely echoing it. Slowly the roles reverse with instruments becoming more independent, and the piano less and less active, until it is almost silent.
NOW’S THE TIME (2015) was written for John Perrine. As I had not really written much concert music for a number of years, I was curious to see what would happen. I would say the music is more straightforward and less intricate than the earlier pieces, though part of that is probably the smaller ensemble. The title, although it is also the name of a famous song by the great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, was really more a message to myself to get back to composing again.
AFTER ENDING (2017) is in two movements. The first is a revised version of an earlier work called Al Segno written for the Da Capo Chamber Players of New York in 2010. I was never quite satisfied with the original, and took the opportunity to recast it for larger forces, and to rewrite a fair portion of it. The second movement was written in the summer of 2017 as a companion, and in a way as an “answer” to that earlier movement. The two movements are therefore highly contrasted with the first being delicate and lyrical and the second rhythmic and driving.
I am grateful to Ars Futura for their fine musicianship, to David Yost for his talents as an engineer, to Cleveland State University for their support of this project and to Parma/Navonna records for the chance to have this music released. I’d like to dedicate this record to the memory of my father Donn D’Alessio.
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