Berenika: first performer of the Prelude

Prelude (2005)

“A tortoise playing football would be—” Achilles was beginning.

“—an anomaly, of course,” the Tortoise hastily interrupted. “Don’t wander from the point. Let’s have Z first, and football afterwards!”

— from Lewis Carroll: What the Tortoise Said to Achilles

My Prelude is the first of a series of works for solo piano, and is strongly influenced by Hofstadter’s seminal work Gödel, Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which debates the question of consciousness, and attempts to discover what “self” really means. The book uses the drawings of Escher and the music of Bach to illustrate problems in mathematics and logic, alongside numerous amusing and highly illustrative dialogues between Achilles, a Tortoise, and others, based on Lewis Carroll’s What the Tortoise Said to Achilles.

In the Prelude, I try to portray such a conversation through the classical “Rondo” form, which is the subject of investigation in this music. In classical music, the word Rondo refers to both a form, in which a principal theme (or “refrain”) alternates with one or more contrasting themes (or “episodes”), and also to a character-type: music that is fast and vivacious. In the imagined conversation of my Prelude, strangers meet on the road to a common destination.

I imagine that the road (the refrain, in this piece) is the road to Rome, and the strangers (i.e. the episodes) might be as diverse as Achilles with the Tortoise, Julius Caesar, Zeno, or St Paul. The refrain is easily identified as grand, imperial, and overbearing music, and although the episodes are initially readily identifiable — frenetic, breathless, schizophrenic, and perhaps paranoid — they soon begin to conflict, to interrupt each other: the strangers are each concerned with their own agenda, and only want to tell the others, and not to listen.

Premiere

1st May 2006, at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford, performed by Berenika.

Duration

c.10 minutes

Instrumentation

piano solo

Downloads

Recording

Prelude is available on the following commercial release, performed by Radius, together with Five Bagatelles:

Stream on Spotify

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