A Look Back: "It's not REAL music." (Three Pieces for Piano from 1992)

I came across some relics of my mis-spent youth in a box. I had forgotten how much music I wrote in my teenage years, frequently holed up in the basement with calligraphy pens and manuscript paper. (I've blocked out much of those years, for some reason -- or maybe we all do.) 

I composed these little pieces when I was 16 years old. I was quite pleased with them at the time, going to the extra trouble of using a typewriter to "engrave" the tempo and expression markings. (If only I had been up on technological frontier of the time -- we didn't have a computer, and I'm just now catching up, really.)

When I proudly played these for my piano teacher, Nicolas Constantinidis, he scoffed, "Well, it's not real music." 

I was crushed, of course. What he meant was that it was tonal. He was coming from the dogma of mid-century academic circles that legitimate contemporary composition was in a serialized, non-tonal style. Despite his dismissal of my talent (he had high designs of me being a concert pianist -- more on that subject another time), I still went on to pursue composition in college. 

It's a strange experience to re-hear something you wrote 25 years ago, and completely forgotten in the interim. Yet, it's still there, once reminded of it, deep in the brain it came from, like a message in a bottle from across the years.

My current critical assessment: pretty cute! Looking at the score, I certainly was obsessed with slur/phrasing marks to an amusing extent. My favorite music at the time was Paul Creston's Saxophone Sonata, and I had just been introduced to Sondheim's INTO THE WOODS. I can hear those influences -- the plethora of major-seventh chords in the Barcarole (as I mis-spelled it on my manuscript), much like Creston. I wonder where I got the idea for the quartal harmonies in the Interlude. Actually, I believe I was playing some Ginastera at the time -- it's definitely Ginastera.

This is probably one of the better ones, but the amount of music I penned as a teen is impressive, if the quality of much of it is not! Here's an amusing sampling. Especially fun is the first page of a wretched toccata (in which I appear to have not known what a toccata is,, nor what the Phrygian mode is), written on an entirely erased page. Perhaps my supply of manuscript paper was running low and I was trying to save paper? 

Brian Taylor3 Comments