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concerto no. 3 in d major for piano & strings (full)
(note - this same track also appears on the pureambient album SSDL1753 "music for apps: notion - an eternal album" as track 14)
recorded: september 2014 - october 2014
The “concerto no. 3 in d major for piano & strings” was my first work outside the more familiar sonic areas of oboe & guitar, I wanted to push myself so I deliberately scored the piece, when it was brand new, without any horns, which made it imperative that I play well and compose well with both the piano and the strings, and also that I feel free to use other elements, such as percussion instruments, for melodic or solo sections – so almost by accident, very quickly - I found two new percussive “friends” that saved the day over and over again – the xylophone, and, those wonderful timpani.
I had definitely taken the crutches away this time, no more, could I rely on a beautiful oboe solo to hold the listener’s attention, instead, feeling very much on my own at first, I began to push forward and use the piano as my main solo instrument – that was not a great leap, that felt very natural but it did take some real effort to get the strings to sing out in a way that pleased me…but I found ways. By the time I reached movement no. 2, I felt like I’d been working with piano & strings for ages – it began to feel very natural indeed.
I began to use the strings in new ways, hearing them in waves, hearing them in plucked pizzicato style…hearing them as almost mellotron-like; playing deep, lowing chords that linger in the brain…real strings are like nothing else on this earth, and I found that the pairing of piano and strings is a naturally strong one, that can be used in so many different and expressive ways.
But by bolstering the two main solo instruments in the piece with a fair number of surprising percussion based interludes, letting the timpani speak from the lowest bass registers, or doing my very best Ruth Underwood impression with a lilting, flowing xylophone melody – it was all a very joyful experience – and I think if there were more room in the title block that I might have named the piece “concerto no. 3 in d major for piano, strings, xylophone and timpani” because that’s really what it’s become – but, I’ve stuck with tradition and named the two main solo instruments only – piano and strings.
Strange cultural references found their way into the piece too, direct music quotes, hopefully, of a brief and subtle nature, quoting Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Todd Rundgren and Peter Hammill, at different times…so the fact that I even allowed myself the freedom to do that, says that I am definitely becoming comfortable with the process of composition and scoring.
I don’t plot this out, I don’t sit there and think “OK, now I am going to play a bit that sounds very much like a chord progression that Todd Rundgren might have done"…instead, while I am working, I hit certain chords, and I then add more of them…and then, when I listen back, I think – that’s a bit like Todd. So maybe then, I move things about, add more odd/Todd chords, until I have 10, 15, 20 seconds of “Todd-like piano”. It’s hardly anything, it’s utterly unintentional, and if anything – I just guide a process that was an accident of birth. The first two chords were there, I just added three more that enhanced the accidental effect, and – an accidental pop culture reference is born. Some of these “cultural references” are more obvious than others, some you may not even notice, but they are there – quite a few of them in this particular piece.
Other instances I can’t explain away as easily, because it took some deliberate thought to add in say, a bar of “the firebird suite” by Igor Stravinsky – but, it was fun or funny, at the time, so I reckoned – why not.
So this concerto might be thought of as a sort of turning-point for myself, where I can be serious most of the time, but still find moments where I can allow myself to relax and have some fun with the music, and I hope that’s how it comes across to the listener – as an experience that is at once, solemn, and joyful – with the emphasis on the joyful parts!
Beginning with a simple folk melody of unknown origin, and moving through a startling number of sections and musical revelations, for three long measures, until I reach that folk melody again, nearly half an hour later, during the final minutes of movement number 3…
Themes repeat and recur, re-join, conjoin, mutate; while melodies and their harmonies drift about the brain, but somehow, it all makes perfect sense to me, and again, I hope that the conceptual aspects of the repeating themes come through the presentation, there are plenty of moments of hope and glory, and I am very proud of this work, which is certainly my most ambitious to date.
Moving from the oboe and guitar to piano and strings was a huge challenge to myself, but the resulting “concerto no. 3 in d major for piano & strings” bears out that my patience has been rewarded, and I’ve succeeded in teaching myself to score without leaning heavily on the very familiar oboe and guitar that I used in my first two concertos.
I give you then, my third, the “concerto no. 3 in d major for piano & strings”, and we hope that you enjoy it!
ambient loop guitarist dave stafford performed on stage with robert fripp and the orchestra of crafty guitarists in early
2009, and again with robert fripp and the symphony of crafty guitarists in 2015, and has worked with ambient music and looping for over twenty years. stafford has a rich back catalogue of ambient and loop music, +rock, prog or acoustic crafty guitar music: www.pureambient.com...more