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Black on white : for piano with left hand

by Betty Beath (1983)

Audio Sample

Performance by Betty Beath from the CD Betty Beath plays her piano music.

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Poetic nostalgia


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Poetic nostalgia : music of Australian composers.

Library shelf no. CD 140 [Available for loan]

First light


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Work Overview

I was invited to write this piece by Shirley Harris, who was in 1983, director of The Harbor Conservatory for handicapped children; she was gathering works for a collection of piano music for one hand alone which could be used at The Harbor Conservatory and elsewhere.

In writing the piece I decided to make use of the full keyboard and with the help of a ruler (thirty centimetres long...just the right length to depress two octaves of either black or white keys) I was able to achieve this result. Also, by depressing the ruler and at the same time the sustaining pedal, there was the interest of producing a gong-like cluster of sound which could add to sonority, depth and warmth of sound and which could be maintained for as long as musically appropriate. These clusters and groups of chords were designed to make use of all the black keys followed by a shift of interest to the white keys. The tempo Andante was chosen to accommodate varying skills, but the work does need to be kept moving (as far as possible within the performer's limitations).

Writing for left hand alone does present limitations but it did provide a catalyst which was both challenging and satisfying. Every new piece presents a challenge...but it is always satisfying to find the resolution. I was concerned to make a satisfying piece of music, something to engage the performer and also the listener. Communication was important and through playing the work myself as it evolved, I could experiment and find the direction I felt was appropriate. Texture is important and I was concerned to produce a work which could translate to a warm, sonorous musical statement.

Work Details

Year: 1983

Instrumentation: Solo piano work for left hand alone.

Duration: 2 min.

Difficulty: Medium — AMEB Grade 7

Dedication note: Dedicated to Shirley Harris

Commission note: Commissioned by Shirley Harris.. Shirley Harris, Director, The Harbor Conservatory.

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