Speed Deeps Emit Time

Harpsichord Solo
Duration circa 12 minutes

I borrowed the palindromic title of this piece from the titles of two paintings by Lucinda Parker. These paintings were on display at the Davidson Galleries in Seattle on an evening that I heard harpsichordist Jillon Dupree and violinist Carla Moore perform in the space. Like their titles, the paintings are symmetrical, though the symmetry is imperfect. I have incorporated Davidson’s symmetry with variation into the structure of Speed Deeps Emit Time.

Speed Deeps Emit Time uses durations, textures and tempi to define its form. The form is sectional and symmetrical and is reminiscent of traditional passacaglia, variation or rondo forms. At the beginning and end of the piece, the sections are long and the texture is sparse. As the music progresses towards the middle, the sections get shorter and the texture gets denser. The first and last sections are about a minute and a half long, the sections at the center last about seven seconds. This is analogous to the way that the pressure of a gas increases under compression.

There are 18 sections in the piece. Each section features one of six types of texture: melody with accompaniment, monophonic line, hands together in contrary motion, short percussive clusters, percussive clusters with arpeggios, and arpeggios alone. The pattern of textures appears symmetrically around the center. Every section works with the same chord progression. Like the piece as a whole, the basic chord progression is a palindrome. The chord progression plays through several times in the longer sections, just once in the shorter sections.

The keyboard idiom spans 18th century preludes and fantasias (Bach), 19th century romantic piano technique (Brahms) and 20th century modernism (Bartok, Glass) and is by turns rhapsodic and rigorous. Speed Deeps challenges the harpsichordist to create a cohesive whole from an elaborate pattern of expressive tableaux.

view score

The recording is an electronic demo