Piano Quartet No. 1

(2009)

This work is for me a return to the rhetorics and formal structures of my “misspent” youth playing in punk-rock bands on the New Jersey shore in the late 80’s. The music we wrote was music with much ornamentation and embellishment, but little improvisation as the term is generally used— there was little time for expansive guitar solos in songs clocking in at under two minutes. In this temporally compressed grammar (or perhaps “syllabary” is a better term) distinctions between phrase and riff and verse were unclear, yet relevant, for this was music with a flair for form, form that could be felt in the body, not merely heard in the mind’s ear. Juxtaposition was privileged over transition, and repetition over development. Our ears brimmed and bled with The Germs and The Minutemen, but also the more aggressive side of the British progressive rock scene. First among these groups was always King Crimson and its leader Robert Fripp. The particular harmonic and formal approaches of that group has had substantial impact on my compositional approach, and my approach to functioning and persisting as a musician in the late modern.

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Like the punk-rock models, the symmetric structures and machinic inevitability of King Crimson’s music led me to consider in the possibility of forms which functioned outside of song-forms, and still informs much of the large scale temporal organization of my music. The work does not take the vernaculars of my youth and 'raise' them via my training in European art music nor does it, in an alternate but equally telos-driven construction, take the exsanguinated and rarefied traditions of classical music and reinvigorate then through the sublimation of ‘popular’ materials with their lauded freshness and directness. In my experiences, the separations of genres and styles are never as real as our stories about them might make us think. In music, there are not two things which can be placed on opposite ends of a table, no Pauli Exclusion Principle keeping musical fermions apart. Repertoire, parts of pieces, and pieces themselves interpenetrate and emerge from ways of being musical, from the patterns of doing which result in the sound and practice we call music. Music does not represent the varied influences of the composer; it is the music that re-combines and reterritorializes us, remaking us in its own image.”