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Seven Pieces in Twentieth-Century Styles

By James Siddons

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Piano Solo - Intermediate - Digital Download
Composed by James Siddons. 20th Century, Contemporary Classical, Impressionistic, Ragtime, Etudes and Exercises. Sheet Music Single. 9 pages. Published by James Siddons Music and Writings (S0.199857).

Item Number: S0.199857

These seven short pieces were composed in the early months of 1976 as imitations of some of the composers and musical styles of the early twentieth century. They were never performed or published at the time. They are useful as didactic studies for student pianists. The seven pieces are
I. Intonatione In the Whole-Tone Scale
II. Prélude and Nocturne in Modes
III. An Impression of Impressionism
IV. An Imitation of Roy Harris
V. Adding Chord-Tones While Shifting Meters
VI. Ragtime Bitonality
VII. Diatonic Waltz

Program Notes:

The Intonatione In the Whole-ToneScale recalls the Renaissance Italian musical form that evolved into the prèludein later organ music, as well as the use of Italian forms in the atonal musicof Arnold Schoenberg, and some neo-Baroque composers of the twentieth century.In contrast, the whole-tone scale is reminiscent of generally tonal composers,including Debussy.

The Martial Prèlude and Nocturnein Modes recalls the many pre-twentieth century pairings of preludes withfugues and other forms. The pairing with a nocturne evokes an air ofRomanticism. The Martial Prèlude is a march-like fanfare, in Lydian modeon C. The Chopinesque Nocturne is in Phrygian mode, on E flat.

An Impression of Impressionismevokes some of Debussy’s Preludes pour Piano, including a suggestivetitle at the bottom of the page, as Debussy himself did. For the young pianistaiming to master the works of Debussy, the arpeggio patterns, block chords, andsequential motives will prove helpful as introductory exercises.

An Imitation of Roy Harris was inspired by the occasion in 1976 when James Siddonsheard Roy Harris speaking in person about his compositions. Siddons wasimpressed by Harris’ youth in Oklahoma, and how the solidity of American rurallife shaped Harris’ symphonic music. When taking questions at the end of thelecture, a young composer asked Harris about his creative methods whencomposing music. “Well,” Harris responded, “You don’t pull up a potato just tosee if its growing.”

Adding Chord-Tones While ShiftingMeters is a technical exercise that isnonetheless fun to listen to, and fun to play. A student pianist should beasked to analyze the harmony in this piece, and to describe what “shifts” aretaking place when the musical meter (as well as phrasing and rhythm patterns)change. The echoes of Stravinsky and Bartók should be apparent to the listenerand pianist.

Ragtime was not regarded as artmusic of the same caliber as Stravinsky and Schoenberg, or even Copland andGershwin, until the 1970s. The inclusion of ragtime in these seven pieces wouldnot have been accepted by composers of the early twentieth century, Stravinskyexcepted. Ragtime Bitonality explores how such piano music might havesounded had major composers of the 1900-1920 era taken an interest in itsmarch-like vitality. There is even a touch of atonality!

In contrast to the powerful rhythmsand juxtaposed tonal relations in much early twentieth-century music, therewere works by many composers that continued familiar melodic patterns andbalanced forms, offering musical relief in a turbulent era in music history.The Diatonic Waltz is offered here as a quiet, peaceful conclusion toour tour of musical styles in classical music of a century ago.

About the Composer: James Siddons is a composer and pianist as well asmusicologist. His research guide to the music of Japanese composer ToruTakemitsu was published in 2001. For more information, see www.JamesSiddons.com






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