Anni, for Nina is dedicated to my wife Nehal El-Hadi on her birthday, as we enter our second year of marriage and anticipate the birth of our first child.

The piece is for solo piano in three movements; the first and last a prelude and postlude, respectively, to the longer and more developed middle. I have posted the audio for this movement only.

The first movement simultaneously references the music of Steve Reich in its interlocking patterns – here between the left and right hands, as opposed to separate instrumentalists – and Philip Glass in triads that shift via neighbour tones. Each hand plays a different triad opposite the other to create a six-note harmony overall. There are no melodies per se. The movement begins and in D major and shifts to D minor (there is a neighbour-tone motion in the top voice as the keys change). The rhythm is in five beats, then seven, then seven plus five.

The key of the second movement is ambiguous during the opening chorale, then settles into A major/F-sharp minor. It is based around an ostinato – once again the hands are interlocked – that varies both metrically and melodically. There is a distant relation to J.S. Bach’s famous C major prelude from The Well-Tempered Clavier (a relation hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces could claim). Later in the movement, a simple two-voice counterpoint appears above the ostinato. Finally, the ostinato emerges as a playfully additive melody in two voices.

The third movement is in A major. It begins with another chorale, references a melodic shape from the second movement, then returns to the interlocking chords from the first. The chords for the most part expand or contract symmetrically, and the intervals of each chord are arranged symmetrically. The final two six-note chords are the ones from the opening of the first movement.

Anni was played live straight to master without a mixer or recording software; the outer movements in a single take each, and the inner with two edit points.

Composed and recorded October 2012

Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2012

Author: elmahboob

Bruce A. Russell, aka Ibrahim El Mahboob, is a composer and self-taught pianist. He studied composition with James Tenney and Phillip Werren at York University, as well as ethnomusicology. He has composed music for the Madawaska String Quartet, McMaster Dancers and Modern Times Stage Company. He was host of Radio Music Gallery, and has written for Musicworks. His interests are in contemporary concert music, especially postminimalism; music of the African diaspora; and the intersections of technology, media, popular culture and critical race theory. Bruce lives in Toronto with his spouse and three children.

2 thoughts on “Anni”

    1. Thank you, Ashil. I’m truly grateful especially for your feedback, and glad you dig it.

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