Rondeau, Ostinato, and Fantasia (2018)

These are not three movement but three independent pieces for the same instrumentation

for piano/harpsichord, percussion, clarinet, saxophone, violin, and cello.

Commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition


April 9, 2019, Taplin Auditorium, Princeton, NJ

Latitude 49

Jani Parsons, keyboard

Chris Sies, percussion

Andy Hudson, clarinet

Andy Hall, sax

Tim Steeves, violin

Max Geissler, cello


Live Recording of the Premiere
Recording engineer: Andres Villalta

Program note: 

Rondeau is based on a form of Medieval poetry called rondeau simple, a repetitive ABA’AA’’B’AB verse-refrain form. In my instrumental version, the A “verse” is transformed every time it comes back. The penultimate B “refrain” bursts into a virtuosic yet comical harpsichord solo that leads to a strange Medieval jazz groove. The inspiration comes from the Ars Subtilior, a brief and obscure fourteenth-century experiment in seemingly pointless rhythmic complexity. 

The ground bass from the Baroque period usually outlines the tonic and the dominant. The bassline in Ostinato spans a tritone. A quick tritone substitution allows for a snappy return to the tonic. (Special thanks to my jazz piano teacher Pascal Le Boeuf!) The interjecting sections in a compound meter contain complex metric modulations that change the rhythmic character of the principal material when it returns. An explosion in spectral harmony marks the climax, and a lighthearted coda follows. Ostinato contains a secret quotation from Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, the origin of the special instrumental combination of which Latitude 49 is a cool version. 

Fantasia, like the eighteenth-century instrumental music from which it takes its name, is composed as if it were improvised. In my Fantasia, the meandering structure takes us from an opening flourish in the harpsichord to a serene undulating harmony, then to an impetuous fugue in the unfortunate key of Ab minor. A brief recap closes the piece on a peaceful note. 

Rondeau, Ostinato, and Fantasia were commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University. It was written for, and dedicated to, Jani, Chris, Hudson, Andy, Max, and Tim of Latitude 49.