Contemporary Classical Composer

My Music

Notes on original music by Gregory Kyle

Chime Melody

August 27, 2014

Here is one of my Contingency Etudes. Like the others, it features a randomly changing variable, in this case…

…register. My task was to create something meaningful out of randomly shifting registers (sets of 12-note octaves from low to high on the keyboard) determined by the Contingency Theme. This does not make melody impossible; it simply requires that one wait for a convenient register to randomly present itself before the melody can “lawfully” continue. The continuation of the melody is contingent upon register. Sometimes it has to restart because it was interrupted. As a whole, the goal of this piece is to ascend, as if out of the dust, and attain a level of energy from which emotion can be channeled freely. The process is gradual and requires some patience, since the melody cannot ascend but at the behest of chance; but when it is actualized, there is a sense of fulfillment, and the music lays down its head in peace.

The pentatonic scale (the black notes on the piano) is always intuitive. Whatever harmonies result from it, randomly sounding from the depths to the heights, complement one another, as if members of the same family. The intuitiveness and simplicity of the scale, in this case, make me think of plants, animals…life in general. The level of organization in biological life is extremely high; and yet its existence depends to a significant extent upon random forces–both those that shape conditions in the external world, and those that determine DNA during procreation. The interplay of “randomness” and “organization” in this way seem to be metaphorical for life.

Meanwhile, the piece may admit other interpretations. The randomly shifting chords are struck and left echoing like chimes. Yet out of that randomness, a melody emerges, something that would never happen if left to chance. There is Intelligent Design, causation by conscious intent, yet that working through or from within contingency.

In any case, there is the pentatonic scale, which is essentially the universal language of humankind.

Free Etude: Metaphysique

July 15, 2014

I’ve been writing piano etudes lately, and here is the latest one: my “Free Etude.” This piece was originally part of my ongoing Contingency Etude series…it had randomly changing dynamics that would have created a sort of strobe-light effect (loud, soft, very loud, moderately soft, extremely soft, extremely moderately loud, etc., following no pattern). It was ridiculously hard to play. I didn’t even want to play it, as the composer, and a pianist who likes to grapple with Ligeti etudes. The idea is this: if something is hard to play, the aesthetic reward must be worth the effort. It wasn’t, so I canned the random dynamics and made them intuitive. The result is a “free etude”—without any restrictions on my creative fiat.



As usual, I like to offer a few thoughts on what my music means. In this piece, there is a sense of logic and order created by the repeating patterns, and yet the counterpoint is abstract and “disoriented.” The sense of disorientation comes from the symmetrical pitch-sets (chromatic scales in the right hand and slowly modulating whole tone scales in the left). All that means to me is: outer space, or something like it. Which way is up? Which way is down? Yes, there are momentary reference points, but they change after not too long–unlike life on earth, in which gravity is always pulling downward. The ground is The Frame of Reference. So this piece is either in (so to speak) outer space, or in a disembodied realm. In my series on power, which I posted in the older version of this website (and am soon to re-post as a single stand-alone post for your reading pleasure) I talk about “metaphysical space”… a realm of pure thought (not unlike, I suppose, Plato’s realm of ideal forms). Anyway, it’s the metaphorical “space” where reasoning is done. In this space, there may or may not be a sense of certainty, depending on the subject matter. This etude, it seems to me after hearing myself play through it, and as I listen to this virtual realization of it, is analogous to that realm, and specifically to a discussion, or speech given, in which someone is articulating a point about something that listeners are invited, or perhaps commanded, to observe. In short, the piece is rhetorical, not in the deceptive sense, but in the convincing sense. And there is an unpredictability to it as well. Surprises happen, unexpected changes. What does that mean? That whoever is giving “the speech” is demanding attention. Surprises demand attention. So then, whatever this speech is about, it is important. Also, there is emotional reward when the point is made, when the thing to be expressed is finally expressed. Emotional satisfaction. That is created by the unified rhythmic punches and climax at the end, not to mention the intermediate climaxes in-between that build up to it.

There is another version of this piece in which everything (almost) repeats verbatim, affording one the opportunity to trace the musical argument again, and possibly appreciate it better the second time. But for purposes of brief, more Twitter-spirited communication, I post the short version.

These are my thoughts. When you listen to this music, let your imagination take you where it will, freely as it were, whether where I have suggested, or somewhere else new and different. Imagination, my friends, is what this is all about.