i cannot follow ...

Program notes

i cannot follow ... is inspired by an ancient metaphor linking the technique of musical canon (in which instruments take turns stating the same melody) with the human act of following. More specifically, the piece was inspired by a moment in "Ahi dispietata morte!," a 16th-century madrigal by the great Italian composer Luca Marenzio. Here the words "I cannot follow" are addressed to a dead lover and set to a clever series of canons. It is a striking and ironic moment in which music dramatizes exactly what we know we cannot have: an escape or reprieve from death. It made me think of life as a series of slapstick playground games, with us each careening madly after each other … until we can't.

In my piece almost everything is a canon and the instruments are almost always following each other. (There is another reference here, to Louis Andreissen’s Hout, written for the same ensemble and almost entirely canonic.) Sometimes these canons are replaced by echoes, as if the instruments have started chasing their own tails. There is a dark and melancholy mood throughout, as is typical of meditations on mortality. Many harmonies are derived by generalizing the techniques of Marenzio's canon, though this will perhaps be interesting only to theorists. As in almost all of music, there are references to many different styles, including rock and jazz. These are particularly obvious here given the instrumentation.

The first movement, "Structures of Loss," begins softly and gets gradually more intense throughout. "Reprieve" is gentle and sweet. In the last movement "I Cannot Follow" you hear the canonic structure literally cut off, as the other instruments find themselves no longer able to follow the guitar’s lead.

The piece was written for and recorded by Flexible Music (Dan Lippel, electric guitar, Timothy Ruedeman, tenor saxophone, Yegor Shevtsov, piano, and Haruka Fujii, percussion).

Instrumentation: Electric guitar, tenor sax, piano, percussion (vibes, cymbal, crotales, woodblocks)