Kenza, for piano

Today is the second birthday of my second child Kenza, firstborn to my wife Nehal El-Hadi. Just before her birth, I wrote a short three-movement work for piano dedicated to her.

Like the work written for her older sister Remi, the music here is diatonic, in the key of C major/A minor throughout. I work with simple forms and materials to create something that is both childlike and abstract.

“Fourths + Fifths” is structured around a sequence of six diatonic modes, each associated with a melodic pattern. Each pattern is built up from a single arpeggio into a homophonic canon by layering the pattern against copies of itself with different starting points or octaves, although this process is only made clear with the first pattern. The intervals of the fourth and fifth predominate both melodically and harmonically throughout.

“Moon” builds the texture once again from a single line to homophony, harmonizing a melodic fragment with chord clusters and a descending bassline. The second section expands the bassline by one note and replaces the earlier chords with arpeggios. The title refers to Kenza’s favourite single-word expression of wonderment.

“Golden” is dated “12 12 12” and like the first movement features a sequence of six modes. Here, a twelve-note pattern is played against pedal notes in the bass and treble, varying with each change of harmony. The pattern comes from my kalimba piece Lonely Little Boat, and is in this way an expression of continuity. The title refers to my wife’s nickname for me, as well as my daughter’s first and middle names Kenza Aurélie, which translate in Arabic and French respectively as “treasure” and “golden.”

Happy birthday, dear Za!

Composed 2012
Recorded 2013-2014, Roland digital piano direct to file

Photos by Nehal El-Hadi

Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2014

Author: elmahboob

Bruce A. Russell, aka Ibrahim El Mahboob, is a composer and self-taught pianist. He studied at York University with James Tenney and Phillip Werren. 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 postminimalism, music of the African diaspora, and the intersections of technology, media and popular culture. Bruce lives in Toronto with his wife and three children.

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