Sostenuto  

for grand piano with sostenuto pedal, and improvisor   copyright © 1996 by Larry Solomon

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The keys of entire lowest octave on the piano are silently depressed and held with the sostenuto pedal throughout the piece, except for the first minute of the performance. The sustain pedal may be used sparingly during the first minute.

The performer must practice playing groups of secundal pitch-sets (not pitch-class sets) which are spaced mostly in major sevenths and minor ninths over several octaves, using the range of the instrument, except for the lowest octave. Occasionally, other intervals may be interpolated. The accompanying chart of pitch sets may be used, or a new one may be compiled. Additional sets may be added by the performer as long as the basic seventh and ninth structures are maintained (each is a secundal chord spaced over different octave registers, and no pitch-class is duplicated within each set). Each set has a group of 4 to 10 fixed pitches, i.e., each pitch is kept in the same octave register. These are mostly played as individual notes (sounding one at a time) in a random order. Notes may be repeated and will recur several times, in most cases.

The performer is to play each pitch within each set as a one-note motive in dialogue with other one-note motives in the same set. This dialogue is created by varying dynamics (from fff to ppp with sudden changes), articulations, durations and timing (which should be non-metrical and irregular). Chords (simultaneities) may also be constructed with each pitch set. These are suggested in sets 17-21 and 23. The performer must listen to the harmonics that the pedalling creates and adjust the dialogue so that these harmonics are clearly audible. This requires the insertion of "pregnant" rests between pitched events. These are the primary means of variation which must be practiced by the performer if the performance is to be successful. The dialogue should be similar to the irregular rhythmic dialogue of insects, birds, and frogs, some close and some distant, some staccato and some sustained, etc.

The performer may move from one pitch-set to another at will, but not too quickly. Generally, a dialogue should be established and maintained for each set before moving on to another. The order is indeterminant, not as shown in the score. Not all need be played.

There are three sections forming a ternary: A B A. The first section focuses on statements composed of individual notes responding to one another. The second begins a pulsation of each note that diminishes in loudness, but overlaps in a stretto-like fashion with pulsations over the other notes, each at a different rate. The last section is similar to the first, but shorter.

  Length: approximately 7-10 minutes 

See the sample chart of pitch sets