Program Notes

STARRY NIGHT in Four Quadrants

 for Violin and Piano (1991)

Starry Night is a collaborative work for violin and piano. Structure is provided, but the players are given the freedom to create their own phrases. The players perform independently of one another.

The score consists of four sections or ‘quadrants’. A single quadrant contains integers of three different sizes and styles that represent variations in the duration of musical phrases, and in dynamics.

The brightest stars appear to form patterns or star-groups in the sky, which we know as constellations. The integers that appear in the score are derived from the number of stars in a single constellation, while the position of the numbers on the page correspond to the relative position of the star-groups in the sky. There are 36 constellations represented in the northern hemisphere (violin), while 39 are located in the southern hemisphere (piano). Two sets of numbers representing the constellations Virgo and Cetus overlap both hemispheres. The three styles of numbers used in the score were drawn from the names of the various constellations, based on the position of the first letter of each name in the alphabet.

A break in the music occurs after each quadrant.

(notes by John Holland and Erica Holland)

 THREE PIECES  for Violin and Piano (2010)

(Based on Diverse Texts)

The Three Pieces were adapted from the 10-movement Sonata for Violin and Piano composed in 2010, written for the Rathbun-Rivera Duo.

The music of 12 Haiku was inspired by poems written on themes of science and nature by the composer. Each of the 12 Haiku is based on a different melodic interval. And all contain a pattern of 5 – 7 – 5 sounds distributed across 3 measures.

In Passing by, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s highly inventive short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, you experience the passage of time.

In Sands of a Distant Shore, a poetic excerpt from Thoreau’s journal Cape Cod, you feel the motions of the sea and the tides.


 for Violin and Piano (2002)

The score is divided into 12 discontinuous movements containing 29 musical episodes altogether. The musical episodes are distributed throughout the 12 movements so that we continuously hear repetitions and varied repetitions of the same music by both instruments. Thus the title Memory.

Each movement contains from 1 to 12 short musical episodes. The number of musical episodes in each movement varies from 1 to 12. For example Movt. 5 has 1 musical episode, Movt. 12 has 2 episodes, Movt. 9 has 3, and so on up to and including 12 episodes in Movt 4.

Both the violin and piano parts contain the same musical episodes (different versions to accommodate each instrument) displayed in each of the 12 movements. Within each movement, the piano episodes are reversed from that of the violin, so that both players perform the same music within a single movement, but reversed in time. This insures that the music for each of the 12 movements will begin and end together.

Included in the score are several musical excerpts borrowed from well-known string works of the 20th century, including music by Claude Debussy, Elliott Carter, and Charles Ives.


 for Violin and Piano (2010)

The Clock is an example of an ‘incrementa’ (an original musical form that exploits incremental changes in melodic intervals, time frames, tonal regions, etc.) that winds down over time.

(notes by John Holland)


for Unaccompanied Violin (1998)

The first and third short movements of this work are nearly identical and were freely composed.  Their American folk-like simplicity provides a familiar ground in which the longer second movement is referenced.

The second movement contains the substance of the piece. It is formed by twelve connected sections each containing a melodic theme.  These twelve themes were written by the composer then in-put into a database where they were selected and modified by a computer program also written by the composer.  Interspersed are additional patterns the computer chose. The music that was generated was converted to conventional musical notation.  The computer is programmed to select short, independent sequences or patterns based on primary elements of musical texture (such as pitch, duration, dynamics, tempo, rhythm, articulation, etc.), each with a unique musical identity.  These basic elements of texture, which transcend musical cultures, styles, or idioms, are combined to form various repeated patterns:  ascending and descending, rhythmic, melodic, varied, and contrasting.

Within a single section the program may select from over 100 different musical options, or algorithms. These mini-sequences or sound groups, complete in themselves, are then strung together within the program to form the various sections.  In general, the music is intended to provoke the listener to imagine events in the world as a series of unique and discrete patterns, which occur in a variety of forms, at different times, and at different orders of magnitude and scale.

In this work the performer has the liberty to insert dynamics, articulations (bowings), style, coloring and character.  In this instance the composer and performer collaborated on the character selections. So the work is an integration of freely composed and computer-generated music and an integration of composer and performer.

(notes by Marla Rathbun)