The seed of the Piano Quintet is a four-note figure stolen from some canonic passagework in Schumann’s Op. 12 Fantasiestücke (no. 6, “Fabel”) which I stretch out into a melody and set in a prolation canon (individual voices playing that melody at different speeds). After getting stuck on a particularly unresolvable chord, “Boulder Pushing” reworks that sequence into a churning mass of tremolos that descend inexorably, gathering speed all the while.
The piano drops out for the center of the piece (marked “Teneramente” or tenderly), a repeated chorale revolving around a B major pole, pushing gradually outward in volume and complexity with each iteration.
“Lenticular Postcard” treats the opening canon playfully, the instruments overlapping in groups of three, four, five, and seven, resulting in a slippery texture which seems to shift depending on one’s focus. The music of “Pyramid Scheme” looks like actual peaks and valleys on the page, a visual and sonic map interspersed with gentle recollections of previous movements.
So there’s also a structural relationship between my piece and Schumann, in addition to the thematic one, in the form of a thought experiment: what if, instead of writing his quintet in monumental, traditional forms, Schumann had written in the mode of his piano sets (like Kreisleriana or Carnaval)—as a single, large-scale form constructed out of several simpler ones?
Piano Quintet was written for pianist Jonathan Biss and the Elias Quartet.