On the subject of drama, I found it useful to view at least one aspect of this work from a theatrical (or, if you like, operatic) perspective. Prominently featured in the piece is what I would describe as a “whirling” motive, rapid alternations of notes within a cluster of semitones. First presented by the cello near the beginning, the motive resurfaces—in various instruments and registers, at different tempi, and with assorted styles of inflection—over the course of the work. In this way, the listener might like to think of this motive as a narrative presence, emerging at points of structural transition, helping to articulate the form of the piece. Furthermore, for me, this “running thread” holds together the various episodes suggested by the movement titles. Almost like scenes in an opera, the sections of this piece present an eclectic palette of characters, styles, and references. Among these, I should mention in particular the influence of Latin American, as well as Spanish, dance music in the third movement.

Dances in Incendiary Keys: Piano Quintet was premiered on May 18, 2011, at a concert of Contempo’s Tomorrow’s Music Today series. It was performed and recorded by eighth blackbird’s pianist Lisa Kaplan and The Pacifica String Quartet, the five musicians to whom this work is dedicated. 

Return to the main compositions page here


home           biography           news           compositions           awards           interdisciplinary           contact           STRIP-TEASE