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Explorations: Mark Lewis’ Etudes for Piano

June 9, 2009

This week’s Explorations segment will feature the music of Mark Lewis, where we’ll hear Three Etudes for Piano.

Lewis is currently a professor of music at Winthrop University, teaching composition and theory. He earned his doctorate at the University of Texas in composition and a Masters in Composition from the University of Houston. He has won a number of awards for his compositions, including the Morton Gould Young Composer Award from ASCAP, the Russell Horn Young Composers Award from Voices of Change, and the Bearns Prize from Columbia University. His music has been performed by many ensembles, including North/South Consonance, Truman State Orchestra, AURA (University of Houston), Symposium for New Band Music, and New Music Camerata, who premiered his piece for wind ensemble Black Against White Sky at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in March 2000. You can find more information here.

We’re going to hear his Three Etudes for Piano (Manwarren Etudes), a set of advanced concert etudes, performed by Lewis. Each movement takes on a different character, with the first and last being fast and very technical and the second being slow and delicate. The first etude, entitled “Sudden and Still” takes a fairly purpetual motion and breaks it up through gestures of different lengths. In this section, Lewis uses the piano more as a thunder maker rather than a melodic instrument. In contrast, the second etude, entitled “Just Because of Distance,” begins with no motion and a few notes spaced octaves apart. It eventually finds a melodic pocket, with dissoant chords interspersed. The final movement – “Carry and Forget” – places front and center a series of ascending melodic figures with similar yet not identical motion in both hands. The etude explores different articulations on the piano and creates a sense of form through dyanamics. The most dramatic moment of all three etudes occurs near the end of “Carry and Forget” when the momentum of the piece is halted for a slow motion chordal section.

In general the etudes subtley distort a sense of the bar line and approach complicated rhythmic and harmonic ideas in music unhesitantly but without sounding complicated to the listener. Hopefully you can tune in at 7pm on June 17th!

Sudden and Still

Just Because of Distance

Carry and Forget

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