Sunday, August 30, 2009

Piano Etudes

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I was in music school in Ann Arbor, I wrote a series of piano études. These were occasional pieces, some more technical than tuneful, and were as much about writing for piano as they were meant for playing. I wrote them to keep my hand in. Call them compositional études as well as performance études. It's an eclectic set, no common thread, and was rather fun to do.

In going through my old files and notebooks and journals, looking for other old scores, I've come across a few of these early études. I'm going to post a few of them here, from time to time, as cleaned-up scans. I've enjoyed re-discovering some of my older scores, actually. They bring back memories. But more importantly, the best of them still retain some purely musical interest. (If I may be so bold as to say that.)

Here is an étude inspired directly by my own experiences of learning and performing the Chopin Preludes. (I can still play some of the easier ones.) It's an homage, but it's also a broken mirror, a fractured and fragmented refraction of the original. After all, a great deal of solo piano music has been written since Chopin was active. His music remains among the most important for piano, not only historically, in terms of his contributions and innovations in composed music, but also because his writing for piano is idiomatic. That is, it's music that is native to the instrument, and still sounds best on the instrument; it can't be easily transfered to other instruments, and it sounds best when played on piano. Chopin, throughout his career, wrote some of the most consistently idiomatic music for piano. It was his genius, and his legacy.

So, my homage to Chopin, a little bit strange, a little bit sad, a little bit avant-garde.

Option-Click or Right-Click on the image for a downloadable full-size PDF of the music, suitable for printing and/or playing.

I'll post more old piano pieces, no doubt including more of these études. Feel free to download and play them. The only thing I require, in this spirit of "giving away" my music, is that if someone does download and perform or record one of my pieces, they must send me an MP3 and a concert announcement, for my records.

(©AP Durkee. All Rights Reserved.)

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

This makes me rather sad. About twenty years ago I threw out all my music scores. I think I have a photograph of one kicking around somewhere but that's it. I've always loved scores. I could frame some of them and hang them on my wall quite happily. They're art. I actually only own one score, a pocket version of Beethoven's 8th Symphony, but I can't read it any more.

5:01 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

I understand that kind of regret, although I suffer more from its opposite. I think I've mentioned before how my mother saved everything I ever gave her; so when we were cleaning out their house after they died, I found two boxes of old paintings I'd made early in life. I also found she had saved some of my old music notebooks, scores, and so on. I inherited my packrat tendencies from her, I suppose, which is why I still have these old music scores. I wonder if life would be lighter if I could just get rid of more. I've purged a lot, and probably will purge again. I like having the ability to scan or photograph old documents now, though, so I don't need to keep everything, but I can still preserve it digitally. Much easier to store and transport. We gave away the 1860s family Bible to my uncle last year, after I spent an afternoon with it, making photographs. There were family marriage and death records in there of some value.

I agree about scores as art, although for me it's framing a beautiful piece of printing from a book or broadsheet. There's the aesthetic beauty of the thing, but also the content and meaning of it. My Mom actually did frame a page from one of my scores and it was on the wall by her piano for many years. She thought it was one of my most beautiful scores, and liked it as art.

Food for thought.

2:03 PM  

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