Candy Box

Program notes

Candy Box is a collection of ten short pieces for two pianos tuned in quarter-tones, totalling about half an hour. Here one of the pianos is detuned by half a semitone so that its notes lie exactly between those of the other piano. As a result, melodies need to shift back and forth between the two players, who are in a constant state of hocketing. It is virtuosic and challenging music.

When writing the piece I noticed that it can occupy two very different perceptual states: sometimes the quarter tones seem like a scale unto themselves, as in Asian and other non-Western musics. But sometimes they can be made to seem like detuned Western scales -- a honkey-tonk piano, for example. I found it interesting to move between these states over the course of the piece.


  1. The traditional function of a prelude, to quote a recent theorist, is to ease the listener into the soundworld of the music to follow.
  2. A Knock on the Door is a four-note off-the-grid rhythm, joined here by a detuned pentatonic scale.
  3. Waterslide. Experiments in liquid pianism.
  4. A Brushback in baseball is a high, fast pitch which serves as a warning to the batter.
  5. Dancing Birds is a piece that Messiaen might have written if he’d lived to see those YouTube videos of dancing cockatoos.
  6. Faceoff is another sports metaphor I guess.
  7. In the House of the Rising Sun. Divides the minor scale’s intervals into half, evoking an out-of-tune piano in a honky-tonk bar.
  8. Sad Song of the Apocalypse: once my three-year old son picked up an out-of-tune ukulele and sang a dirge about the end of the world.
  9. Tongue in Cheek is definitely not serious music!
  10. A Spectral Cage is where you should keep your dancing birds.

Instrumentation: Two pianos tuned in quarter tones

Performers: Yegor Shevtsov and Nathaniel LaNasa