This week’s video pairing traces its roots back to 2013, when Bruce Levingston asked me to write him a nocturne for piano. I’d coincidentally been “rediscovering” Chopin around that time (in pieces such as Old Friend)—I think most piano students, even tangential ones like me, suffer from overexposure after awhile.
As an adult, I find myself drawn to the subtler, more radical pieces—the Nocturnes and Mazurkas in place of Ballades and Etudes. I’m particularly amazed by how consistently surprising the music is, despite its familiarity and conventional forms. I was particularly taken with the coda of Op. 48 no. 2, a long, slow, chromatic descent into the tonic, which feels tragic in a way that’s out of proportion to the scale of the piece. I wanted that same chromatic underpinning to act as a structure for Heavy Sleep, tugging it downward even as it ranges widely over the keyboard.