This Illusion Meant Something (2018)
(or, “Bert and Ernie Go Looking for Answers”)
I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say. Then I thought, “I will continue to write because I have not yet said what I wanted to say”; but I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.
Mary Ruefle, “On Secrets”, from the collection Madness, Rack, and Honey
“It’s like poetry. It’s what you need it to be.”
Mark Saltzman (as quoted by the New York Times), former Sesame Street writer, on whether Bert and Ernie are gay
The first few minutes of this piece are played exclusively on white keys. Music on only the white keys sometimes carries associations of naïvety, simplicity, innocence, childlikeness, purity. On the other hand, it is alternating groups of two and three black keys that give the hand the most immediate sense of orientation on the keyboard – playing on only the white keys, you have to rely more on your ears and eyes to not get lost on the keyboard’s topography.
Through the course of the piece, the black keys are “found”, changing musical frames of reference – bringing the music places both more definite and more ambiguous.
First recording by myself, October 2018:
Premiere by Richard Valitutto, April 17, 2019 (Cornell University):