for piano solo
Length: 8 minutes
commissioned by Magnus Villanueva
Reappearance begins with an unadorned fragment of the famous Dies Irae theme, laying the groundwork for a simple 4-bar phrase derived from the theme’s pitches. In the first section of the piece, and throughout, I attempt to exhaust the contrapuntal possibilities of the phrase, manipulating the recognizability of the phrase more and more as the piece progresses. From a technical standpoint, I fixated on the possibilities of repeated notes shared between the thumb and index fingers when playing chromatic inner voices. These inner voices often control the pace of the music. As the piece progresses, I then introduce further derivations in texture, melody, harmony, and counterpoint to further distance the piece from its starting point.
But during the compositional process, while generating musical material, something unexpected happened. I began to hear everything as part of the same original 4-bar phrase, no matter how contrasting or musically distant it was from the original phrase. This feeling was both exciting and disturbing. Like quicksand, my attempts to move apart from the point of origin only brought me closer to it. This became the main psychological and emotional preoccupation for the entire work. And eventually, this notion became more important than finding a way out.
The piece is, in a sense, about an attempt doomed to fail. Reappearance suggests the scenario where the composer’s only hope to break free from their own piece is by focusing all creative energy on it. But the composer’s attempt to escape only generates more material, only prolonging the moment.
Shi-An Costello is a BMI composer. All rights reserved.
Premiere date: Friday, March 18th, 2022 at Narloch Studio, Chicago, IL. Magnus Villaneuva, piano. (event link)