Michael continues to be the most frequent performer and strongest advocate of my music, and I couldn’t be more grateful! He will play another concert of newly commissioned piano music, including my Missing Piece, at Bowling Green on their “MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music” series on February 16 at 8PM in Bryan Recital Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. This is a very special performance of the piece, because he will perform the second movement from Beethoven’s “Appassionata” sonata right before my piece, as I’ve requested. My new piece is a kind of response to the Beethoven, but it’s still in a 21st century musical language, so the linking of the two pieces creates a mysterious dialogue between a dead composer from nearly 200 years ago and a living composer. The piece is dedicated to my wife, Emily Pinkerton.
If I ever get around to blogging about music and culture, I’ll write more about this piece, but for now, I just want to say that despite what I’ve just said about the dialogue with a dead composer, I am not confronting any kind of “anxiety of influence,” as the late 19th-century composers did with Beethoven, or even wrestling with any worry about how this piece matches up to the long tradition of solo piano music. By now, I think that the burden of competing with dead composers is something of the past– my generation, and probably certain composers from a generation or two ago, have stopped caring about this. It can only hinder us, and it’s irrelevant anyway. I’m just responding to Beethoven because, as a pianist (really, a former concertizing pianist), I have a great fondness for much of the piano repertoire. And Michael asked me if I could compose a piece in response to a piece that was already in the repertoire, so I chose the “Appassionata.” I’m responding to Beethoven in a personal way– as if his central position in the Western canon didn’t matter to me. So… just thought I’d make it clear. A reviewer thought that I was wrestling with Beethoven-anxiety (which is totally understandable, until you hear the music!). It’s just not the case. Another example of this kind of thing is the piece that Caroline Shaw wrote for Michael– she included an entire Chopin mazurka in the middle of her piece, note for note. But there isn’t a hint of anxiety (or irony) in the whole piece– you can tell that she just likes the piece, and thought that it would be interesting to add a modern framework to it.