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Stacy Fahrion wrote Nice Tardigrade so that beginner pianists can enjoy playing polyrhythms and playing in Dorian mode. “Nice tardigrade” is a mnemonic phrase like “hot cup of tea” or “not difficult” that may help pianists remember the sound of a three against two polyrhythm. Tardigrades are resilient microscopic creatures that look like tiny bears. They have existed on Earth for about 600 million years.
This mysterious-sounding intermediate-level etude by Stacy Fahrion is ideal for introducing quarter-note triplets to students, and also is a wonderful recital piece. It eases students into playing 2 against 3 and 3 against 2 polyrhythms, and through playing it, students will learn how eighth-note triplets and quarter-note triplets relate. It begins in G Dorian and ends in D minor. Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the sun, but isn’t visible to the eye alone.
A Wise Old Owl
A Wise Old Owl is inspired by a nursery rhyme of the same title and set here as a whimsically macabre solo for intermediates by Stacy Fahrion. If you’re playing on a grand piano, before beginning the piece you can silently depress the low F octave and sustain it throughout with the sostenuto pedal for an added mysterious effect. This is an optional effect, and the piece still works well without it. The damper pedal is often left down for extended periods of time as well for a swirling effect.
Meditation (from Thais)
Meditation, from Thais by Jules Massenet, is arranged for solo piano in loving memory of my father, concert violinist Hy Shulman. I have such wonderful memories of Dad playing this piece on his violin at family gatherings. Years later, I repeatedly played a recording of Thais when I was pregnant with our son. He grew up to be an accomplished violinist himself and reminds me so much of my father! The cover photo is a self-portrait of me sitting with our son on our dock while gazing at the Milky Way.
Dance of the Loons
Dance of the Loons, by Debbie Center, was inspired by the wail and tremolo calls of the loons on her northern Minnesota lake. The piano mimics the calls of the loons in this hauntingly beautiful tribute to Minnesota’s state bird. This piece is on Debbie’s CD entitled “In Harmony All Ways.”
Lamentations is suite of solos composed by Joanne Griffiths for intermediate players to explore time signature changes, comparisons between simple and compound time, minimalism, and mostly how to express mood and emotion. Breathe is a peaceful, calming minimalist piece pushing the boundaries of 3/4 time and crossing it with more than a suggestion of 6/8. For Carolyn is an uplifting piece with lilting, contrasting themes, in Rondo form. Finally, Sorrow is an expression of grief, with a “bell tolling” theme throughout. It is also minimalist, centered around A minor and changing from 3 to 4 beats in the bar and covering several octaves of the piano.
The Misadventures of Jay Dubya
Portrait No.4: The Misadventures of Jay Dubya, composed by Travis Lohmann is an advanced contemporary piano solo, written in the style, and paying tribute to the early cinematic writings of John Williams. An enrapturing adventure fraught with excitement and twists and turns around every corner; this piece allows the student not only to explore the possibilities of 6/8 meter, but also of various polyrhythms, extensive use of passing dissonances, extended harmony, pedal points, and both rubato and bravura. Step lively with this one, for one wrong misstep could literally end up in a misadventure!
“Picking Marigolds” is a composition written by Travis Lohmann. It explores the use of contemporary harmonies, alternating meters, as well as chordal extensions. While still providing a simple and flowing melody, it is taken through a variety of transformations both harmonic and melodic. Students and teachers alike will enjoy picking apart the musical sequences scattered throughout the piece, as well as the overwhelming sense of serenity this piece brings. Definitely could be used as an interlude for a recital program, or even for social gatherings.
Wistful Waters is a late-intermediate to early-advanced piano work composed by Travis Lohmann. It merges together minimalistic styles as well as elements of French Impressionism, while still focusing on lyrical phrasing and robust melodies. It is a wonderful work with a shimmering beginning, a vigorously emotional middle, and a tempestuous ending. Students will absolutely be enraptured by the ending cadenza. Teachers will enjoy instructing students on various techniques such as: hand-crossing, polyrhythms, rhythmic evenness, and even tremolo!