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I. quarter note = 60 - score preview
II. quarter note = 52 - score preview
III. quarter note = 104 - score preview
Dedicated to Christos Galileas & Raffi Besaylan
Duration: 18 minutes
Most of the music I compose tends to be imbued with strong, non-musical programmatic elements. With the Sonata for Violin and Piano, I sought to break from this norm. I was interested in writing a purely abstract work devoid of any particular “program” attached to the music. I therefore purposely gave the piece a generic title and refrained from attaching titles to the sonata’s three movements. Instead of using an extra-musical idea as the foundation of the piece, I had intended to compose a work largely revolving around an exploration of traditional formal designs.
Despite my best intentions, however, I must confess that there are personal programmatic elements attached to each movement nonetheless. Specifically, while composing the piece, I began to associate each respective movement with a particular teacher from my youth. The first movement is in a very clear arch form and broadly symmetric. While writing a movement with such a clear and purposeful formal design, I was reminded of my very first composition teacher, Roger Hannay (1930-2006) who taught me a great deal about compositional craft during my undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. I owe the strong foundations of my creative activity to his training. The second movement is a fugue. When writing it, I could not help but smile recalling a group composition lesson with Frederick Fox (1931-2011) while working on my Master of Music degree at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. One of the students in our group brought a fugue to Fred who promptly yanked the manuscript from the startled young composer and grumbled, “We don’t write fugues anymore!” To this day, I’m not sure if Fred was joking or not. Still, I can’t help but wonder what he might think of the fugue I decided to include in this sonata. Finally, the effervescent third movement brought to mind my great mentor, Donald Erb (1927-2008) mostly due to the movement’s inclusion of abstracted Greek folk rhythms and melodies. As a doctoral student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, I remember once bringing in a very “serious” work to my lesson. In those days, well before the common use of computers and computer playback of notated scores, a composition lesson began with what seemed to me to be an interminably long period of dead silence as my teacher carefully reviewed my penciled music scribbles presented on wrinkled manuscript. As Don was looking over one passage, I was suddenly horrified to realize that the music inadvertently contained Greek folk idioms. I quickly broke the silence of his score study with profuse apologies for allowing this to creep into my serious work. Without looking up, he merely shrugged and said, “That’s too bad. The Greek stuff is the only interesting thing in this piece.” With those words, he had suddenly given me permission to develop my own voice and allow my music to reflect all the influences of my life experience. What Roger Hannay had given me in terms of craft development, Donald Erb gave to me in terms of artistic development.
Although intended otherwise, this “abstract” work has now become a small tribute to my great teachers. Nevertheless, have decided to maintain its generic title and leave any explanations confined exclusively to these notes. The sonata does make sense for a causal listener. However, as is the case with most art, an audience member might be rewarded with some additional insight by taking the time to read more about the composition and the influences surrounding its creation.