ensemble piano quartet
duration 13 minutes
written fall 2007
commissioned by Hannah Collins and the Acadia Chamber Ensemble
premièred April 20, 2008, New Haven, CT
published by ↪︎ Project Schott New York
I Found it by the Sea is the product of two influences and relationships in my musical background.
On the surface, it is a “sequel” to I Found it in the Woods, my flute/viola/harp trio from 2006. The shapes of the opening themes are clearly related. Musically and emotionally, however, I think they are quite different. Sea makes its structure more obvious by creating space and resolution in between its variations; in this way it feels more stately and classical. It also allows for greater expressive range within each variation, making them more varied and colorful and, in the end, not a little unsettling.
Both Found pieces are related to Brahms’s chamber music, in that I simply took musical objects from various works and recontextualized them in my own. I Found it by the Sea makes this relationship even more explicit. I found it impossible to write a piano quartet without paying homage in some way to Brahms’s Op. 25 (which I first heard 11 years ago and remains my benchmark for great chamber music). I noticed a similarity between the theme of I Found it in the Woods to the piano theme about 10 bars into the Brahms quartet and mashed the two of them together, creating the theme for, in a sense, my Variations on a Theme by Brahms.
In the end of the piece, I set Brahms’s original theme as a “trope” or echo of my own. This gesture was a way to “work out” Brahms’s huge influence on me, by pretending that it was actually I who influenced Brahms.