Estrellita : for two toy pianos
by Andrián Pertout (2012)
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'Estrellita' or 'Little Star' was composed as a Homenaje a John Cage (1912-1992) - in Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of his Birth. In the tradition of American composer, pianist and theorist Henry Cowell (1897-1965) and his monumental publication of New Musical Resources (1930), the work explores a variety of compositional techniques developed during the twentieth century by American experimentalist composer Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) and documented by Kyle Gann in The Music of Conlon Nancarrow (1995). The C Major scale is adopted as the basic pitch material, while the simple five-limit frequencies ratios associated with the C Major triad form the basis for rhythmic development: fundamental or unison (the frequency ratio 1/1), just major third or 5th harmonic (5/4, or 386.314 cents), and just perfect fifth or 3rd harmonic (3/2, or 701.955 cents).
The melodic elements of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little, Star - the English language nursery rhyme of nineteenth-century English origin; often sung to the tune of the French melody Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman (1761); a melody employed in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Twelve Variations for Piano 'Ah, vous dirai-je, maman', K. 265 (1778), as well as Baa, Baa, Black Sheep and the Alphabet Song - also feature in the work, which are incorporated via a compositional process structured around tempo canons (or diminution canons, expressed as polyrhythmic ratios: 4/5/6) and a rhythmic sequence based on a De Bruijn cycle (0000, 1001, 1010, 1111). The 4/5/6 polyrhythmic ratios present a tripartite metrical scheme, which essentially juxtaposes three distinct layers of materials simultaneously at 30, 37.5 and 45 minims per minute. The work also serves as an exploration of the post-tonal harmonic possibilities within the twelve-note chromatic scale as presented by Elliott Carter in his monumental publication of the Harmony Book, with additional pitch material directly derived from Elliott Carter's 3-note chord subsets of 6-note chord no. 35 (D#, E, F, G, A# and B).
Instrumentation: 2 Schoenhut Concert Grand (Model 379B, 37-key) pianos.
Duration: 4 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Professional
Dedication note: Homenaje a John Cage (1912-1992) – in Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of his Birth
First performance: 5 Sep 12. Wolf Museum of Music and Art, Lancaster, PA, USA
The composer has noted the following styles, genres, influences, etc on this work:
Henry Cowell (1897-1965); Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997); Twinkle, Twinkle, Little, Star; De Bruijn cycle; Elliott Carter's Harmony Book
Winner of the ‘John Cage Centennial’ Wolf Museum of Music and Art International Toy Piano Composition Competition for Two Toy Pianos (Lancaster, PA, USA) in 2012.
Performances of this work
10 Apr 16: Melbourne Composers' League ‘Elbow Room’ Concert, Barn Gallery, Montsalvat, Eltham, Melbourne, Australia. Featuring Haydn Reeder.
10 Apr 2016: at Elbow Room Monstsalvat (Montsalvat).
2 Oct 15: Konzert Piano Daze: Ein Tastenwirbel zwischen, Meßmer Momentum, Hamburg, Germany
5 Sep 12: Wolf Museum of Music and Art, Lancaster, PA, USA
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