Six Pieces for Piano "Biography of Esther Thomas Grana"

by Edgar David Grana

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    The subtext for 6 Pieces is a set of variations gleaned from a theme of a mother of many children, many moods. The variations, each one a memory of times past, are memories in words uttered directly by the Hauptstimme mother or whispered thoughts by the child Nebenstimme. The Biography of Esther Thomas Grana is a construct in musical language swimming on a sea of feelings about a woman born in poverty moving into early adulthood with great hope only to be torn down by tragedy before her adult life could blossom into maturity.

    The theme begins in large six-four measures each beat divided again into 6 parts anchoring the theme on top of a swelling surface of left-hand accompaniment. Each variation is a moment of distillation from the mother theme represented by a Hauptstimme and Nebenstimme. Adopting the Debussy paradigm of naming a composition at the end, each variation segues into remembered past spoken by the mother or quietly uttered by the remembering child.

    The compositional technique begins with the collision of two disparate personalities connected in love and in need of control of one another. The music is a narrative describing the absence of affection in the lifetime dialogue between these two strong individuals. The fourth variation is the nebenstimme child that morphs into an invention. The entire length of the Nebenstimme phrase entails the invention. A relentless drive propels it forward, a metaphor of separation from the Hauptstimme for survival. The fourth variation is said to individuate, a personal process, which allows this variation to become its own form not an extension of thought and action engendered from the Hauptstimme.

    The employed variation technique pays obeisance to the spirit of the Elgar extended theme as a starting point. But in this case the theme behaves as the motherlode of information from which variation material is extrapolated by Schenkerian over view and organized by Schoenberg Haupt and Nebenstimme.

    Unlike the traditional Bach/Mozart theme, which is varied through direct correspondence between each bar of variation and with each bar of theme, the variation technique involved here extrapolates an ursatz from the theme as the fundamental line, which creates the essence of the variation material. Unlike the Goldberg Variation model where variation follows the theme, the principle for the 6 pieces is a simultaneous occurrence of theme presentation with distilled variation material from a matrix designed by the ordered pitch classes of Hauptstimme and Nebenstimme phrases. The Hauptstimme and Nebenstimme occur together once in the second variation as antagonist and protagonist. The music reflects the beginning relationship between mother and child in quiet moments of a long looping phrase, a metaphor of distraction and preoccupation between the Hauptstimme and the Nebenstimme as the music exhibits positive and negative states of mind.
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released March 5, 2010

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Edgar David Grana Brooklyn, New York

Lyric Drama Tashi Tibet-Composer/Collaborator with book writer Pam Brunsvold Rummel China's invasion of Tibet. Ballet from the Beginning-Composer based on a story by Pam Rummel. Mr. Grana is recorded on ‘NEWPORT CLASSIC RECORDS’ with Kurt Vonnegut & jazz Saxophonist Michael Brecker, went double platinum with Kip Winger on Winger album. ... more

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