Love and the Troubles

The five-part piano cycle Gimme Some Modes was composed from 2005 to 2009. Each piece uses a different seven-note, non-diatonic mode as a basis to explore ambiguous, scalar tonal schemes. The texture evolves by way of interleaved patterns of pitch rows, arpeggios, progressions of parallel chord shapes, note-on-note canons/chorales, and high and low pedals. The result is a set of meditations on harmony.

The fifth piece, “Love and the Troubles” (2009), begins with a mode spelled C-flat, D, E-flat, F, G-flat, A, B-flat (i.e. B-flat double harmonic major or E-flat double harmonic minor). After a seven-note row on this mode is woven into an extended chordal canon, a second mode is introduced with the substitution of one pitch. This mode is spelled C-flat, D, E-flat, F-sharp, G, A, B-flat (i.e. C-flat augmented with an added flat seventh degree).

The final passage modulates through several keys, always on the pitches of the mode but highlighting its tonal ambiguity. The row appearing just before the very loud chord at the three-quarter point of the piece spells out the chord, the mode, and the bass pedal tones of the ending: C-flat, D, E-flat, G, B-flat, A, F-sharp.

The score is dated 09 09 09.

Recorded February 2014, Roland digital piano direct to file

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


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