Premiere: 19 October 2013 at Razzo Hall, Clark University, Worcester, MA. Brett Maguire, piano

Duration: ca. 10′

Instrumentation: solo piano

Score: View score

Performance note: Cloches draws on music I wrote for my now-withdrawn Wedding Preludes (2008). Ambitious though the earlier piece was, it proved fearsomely difficult to perform and was plagued by some immature compositional excesses.

As its title suggests, each movement of Cloches is a study in bell-like sonorities. The first movement, Cloches de folie (“Bells of Insanity”) alternates two primary ideas: a trill-like figure that grows into an angular melody, and the chiming of bells. A nervous energy pervades the entire movement, though it is soon spent, its duration lasting barely a minute.

The second movement, Cloches d’amour, takes its formal model from several movements of Ligeti’s first book of Etudes. In this movement, gently arpeggiated figures float up; are gradually anchored by weighty, chiming sonorities; and then dissipate again into the ether.

The finale, Cloches de joie, features some of the most severe music I’ve yet written. Again, two primary ideas alternate: fiercely chiming bell-like chords and a Russian Orthodox chorale melody. At the zenith of the movement, both are heard simultaneously, before a cacophonous coda wraps up the piece in a haze of sound.

Cloches is dedicated to my friend, the pianist Daria Scarano.

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