Curiosities (2019)

for harpsichord
 

                                             1. Queen's Croquet

                                             2. Crab Canon

                                             3. Caterpillarpitterpatter

                                             4. Contraption

lovingly dedicated to my brilliant brother, Andrew Rosenblum.

MIDI pending live premiere in April 2020

Perusal Score:

Program Note

 

Neobaroque in stylistic affect but daring in tonal palette, each Curiosity colorfully illustrates the conceit of its title by way of exaggerated character.  Their respective indications, Pompous - Languid - Undulating - Mechanical, succinctly encapsulate their distinct moods and mindsets, while the four, as a collection, correspond to a traditional multi-movement scheme: beginning with a brisk fanfare, ending with a rousing flourish, and encasing inner movements of introspective disposition.  


While not programmatic in the sense of delivering plotwise narrative, the collection has literary undertones in its pursuit of musical metaphor, as follows:

 

Queen's Croquet derives its name from Alice in Wonderland, serving as allegory for pathological narcissism. 

In Carroll’s classic, animate objects of the Red Queen's croquet game — flamingoes as mallets, hedgehogs as balls,  playing card servants as wickets —  contort themselves to ensure the Queen's successful stroke, bolstering her delusion of superiority, lest they be meted lethal punishment per her routine abuses of power.  Consensus-pretense becomes the only viable strategy of survival, and thus the Queen's corrupt psyche influences its external environment to collective detriment.  Hyperbolic dissonance, within an otherwise normative framework of voice-leading behavior and phrase structure, depicts this topsy-turvy distortion of reality, as it operates both internally (within the narcissistically twisted mind in its commitment to fiction-as-fact as pertains to imagined supremacy)  and externally (with respect to panicked machinations of terrorized subjects).  Its tonal language is brash and abrasive, while defensibly logical within its own motivic parameters. 

 

Crab Canon, true to its name, is a perfect canon of retrogrades, doubling as metaphor with respect to harpsichordist's hands

as scuttling crabs.  


Caterpillarpitterpatter approaches its titular premise through recourse to a steady modal-scalar motif, whose horizontal spans

suggest multipodal lepidopteran locotion, and rolling chords, whose vertical stacks suggest a caterpillar’s ability to lift up, in feeding and self-defense.

 

Contraption, a canon at the octave,  puns on "invention," while evoking an image of complicated machinery with potential to go

awry.  Whereas a typical canon subjects a singular melodic line to imitation at an interval of temporal delay, Contraption treats the multi-voiced content of the hands as the basis of canonic imitation, and thus might be dubbed a "manual canon."  At first, the delay of a dotted quarter note value between hands unremarkably participates in compound duple pulse, but soon this same interval of delay gains complexity within shifting meters and asymmetric phrase lengths, as the piece unfolds its varied stylistic terrains, all falling under a neo-baroque umbrella.  Minutely fluctuating tempi, vis-à-vis accelerando and ritardando, serve to depict mechanical malfunction, inviting theatricality in live performance.

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