Instrumentation: Piano Solo
Duration: 8 minutes
Nocturnal (2017) is a set of five short pieces for piano gathered together as a suite. The idea of calling this set of pieces Nocturnal was because they were mostly written late in the evening, and reflects some of the emotions and moods that I experienced. In addition to being connected by the theme of “night’, a connecting thread through these compositions is the use of canonic imitation as a driver for melodic and harmonic development. Four of the five pieces (with the exception of the 4th movement) explore imitation.
The five short pieces are arranged to form a narrative arc. The opening movement, “Dreams”, begins by exploring the tension of sleep. Melodic lines weave in and out over long held chords, which are sometimes dissonant against the fast moving lines. The first movement oscillates between sense of unease and calmness, and maintains a very quiet dynamic throughout.
The second movement, “Perpetual Light”, is yet another exploration on imitation. It begins with a two bar theme which is repeated and imitated in two voice counterpoint.
The third movement, “In Fifths”, moves away from the scintillating sound worlds of the previous two movements by turning to block chords as its thematic inspiration. Using the perfect fifth interval throughout, the movement is rhythmic, bold, and sometimes jarring.
The fourth movement, “Disquiet”, is the shortest section of them all, and is meant to be improvisatory in nature. Imitation is not used in this section, but I wanted instead to explore the extremes of dynamics and register on the piano. This spiky little piece is a reflection on what really bad sleep feels like…
Finally, the fifth movement titled “Sleep Fragments” conclude the set. The past four movements have seen a gradual increase in intensity, from the quiet “Dreams” to the loud and cacophonous “Disquiet”. “Sleep Fragments” brings it back to what is at the heart of nocturnal – the desire to find complete rest. Moving at a free and somewhat glacial pace, the music is restricted to simple counterpoint to convey the sense of calm and peace.