Orchard, Volume 1 (2018)
 

  • avocado
  • chayote squash
  • cherry tomato
  •  grapefruit
  • key lime
  •  lychee
  •  pawpaw
  •  pineapple
  •  sandcherry
  •  soursop
  •  watermelon

 

Each of these pieces were originally composed as part of a larger collection of 50 solo piano works, collectively titled Orchard. Each piece in Orchard is named for and inspired by a botanical fruit. This is the first of five volumes, sorted by difficulty: Volume 1 is the easiest set, while Volume 4 is the most difficult. Volume 5 consists of only pieces utilizing extended techniques.

The music in avocado is deep and smooth - I almost imagine it as being lethargic, to emulate the texture of the fruit. Avocado is one of a handful of pieces composed for Eunmi Ko and students in her studio.

At the request of Neil Nanyi Qiang, chayote squash is inspired in part by gospel music. Admittedly, writing this piece took me outside of my comfort zone: gospel music isn’t something I listen to at all, let alone a style that I compose in. However, growing up I played bass in my high school jazz band, and I drew on my experience with jazz music - and the occasional gospel tune - to create this piece.

Tomatoes grow in one of two categories: determinate and indeterminate, which refers to the time it takes for the plants to stop growing. Musically, however, determinate and indeterminate refers to how much autonomy might be afforded to the performer when performing. cherry tomato blends determinate and indeterminate elements together: the determinate portions dictate exactly what the performer must play, while the indeterminate portions provide sets of pitches the performer may use to improvise within a given texture and context.

When commissioning this work, Chris Opperman wrote to me asking for music that is thoughtful and slow, “almost like I play a chord and listen to it for awhile before choosing another one. I want to savor it, the way I savor my favorite citrus fruits.” grapefruit is one of Chris’s favorite fruits, and the music consists of a series of chords that the performer plays very, very slowly.

key lime was commissioned to be performed only with the right hand. The music is generally quiet and consists of small tremolo gestures; this represents the small, floral qualities of the fruit.

Lychees are small, round fruit with a bumpy exterior and translucent-white flesh with a pit in the middle. The primary musical idea in lychee is the tremolo: this musical gesture represents the floral quality of the fruit, and also acts as an introduction to the various ways to perform tremolo on the piano.

Both myself and my best friend Jake East are from the Appalachian region of Kentucky, so when Jake commissioned a piece for Orchard I knew I had to compose one about the “Appalachian banana,” the pawpaw. The fruit is full of tropical flavors like mango, banana, and citrus, despite being native to portions of the Southern, Midwestern, and Mid-Atlantic United States. It’s also creamy when ripe, like a banana. The music in pawpaw consists of sustained, clashing low-notes with a slow melody, and these clashing notes are meant to produce more complex overtones that are heard, but not actually performed.

The fruit of the pineapple itself directly influenced how I would compose this piece: the tender flesh and sweet flavor were top of mind when thinking about the textures and harmonic language of the music. In pineapple, the hands also mostly move together - representing the balanced qualities of the fruit.

The pitch material in sandcherry revolves around a single pitch. This note, the B below middle C, is punctuated each time with a forte dynamic, and it represents the pit found in the middle of the fruit. All other music around this single pitch is much more quiet.

Soursop fruit is large and oval-shaped, with a spiny exterior and flesh that is similar in texture to a banana. In soursop, staccato chords represent these spines, while the sustained passages in the piece represent the sweet and creamy flesh of the fruit.

Pianist Mijung An commissioned watermelon because it’s one of her favorite fruits. The primarily-chordal music is inspired directly by the shape and size of watermelons (not too different from the shape of a whole note).

 

 

Orchard - Volume 1

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