Sonata for Cello and Piano, 2003-2004 (22′)
The first movement of the Sonata for Cello and Piano presents the same two melodies, one in the cello and the other in the piano, again and again. The modalities and harmonies change constantly, but there is a sense that despite moving, we aren’t going anywhere. When I was writing this piece, I was studying with Martin Bresnick (to whom the work is now dedicated), and he challenged me to make distinct movements, something I rarely do in my music. The first movement leaves things unresolved, and leaves the listener unsure what, exactly, has been said, or imparted. The second movement forces the issue, jarring the material out of its complacency — though with no less repetition. This is a repetition not of being lost, but of being insistent. After a climax that brings the motives to a jarring peak, the third movement begins. The motives are once again recontextualized, as the cello and piano sing a song about the joy and pain of being alive. An old song. Taken as a whole, the Sonata for Cello and Piano deals with memory, with the tension between living in one’s memories and moving on in life, and with the realization that the only way to resolve that tension is to confront the reality of the present, however painful that may be. The three movements of the Sonata represent, in their own way, the past, present, and future, with all the complexities and interweavings that are inherent in our understanding of those temporal terms.