Singletons (2009)

for violoncello and piano

Sound sample: 

I met Doris and Frans at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, where they teach (contemporary) chamber music. Both are passionate musicians and together they are an amiable duo. It was quite a pleasant surprise when they asked me to write a new composition for them!
First point of departure was, for obvious reasons, the combination violoncello and piano: which idiom does one choose for this particular duo? Recently I heard a contemporary piano concerto in which the soloist had to play a waterfall of notes, and that was the inspiration: the piece had to be about notes. These notes emerge from a 5-tone chord that is varied and transposed, and, combined with an unruly rhythmical layer, brings active tension to the piece.

Last summer in Scotland, I read the following lines in a short story by A.S. Byatt: ‘Ines came to see that all the stones, from the vast and cow-sized to clusters of pebbles and polished singletons, were works in progress, or potential works, or works finished for the time being. […] Cracks made by ice, channels worn by water, mazes where roots had pushed and twisted, were coloured in brilliant pinks and golds, glistening where the light caught them. […] The stonecarver worked with the earth and the weather as his assistants or controllers.’ (A.S. Byatt, Little Black Book of Stories 2003).
That was to be my procedure: I wrote a lot of notes, and consequently worked them like a stone carver, to polish, arrange and break, the musical instruments representing the weather. Chords are like bigger stones; the small notes are the pebbles and singletons.
And besides these, the word singleton can be associated with the card game, mathematics and whisky, and, besides music, these are part of the basics of life.



first performance:
November 29, 2009
Doris Hochscheid and Frans van Ruth
website and photography (c) 2011 by maarten storm