Disconsolate Children’s Music

$15.00$30.00

Piano, toy piano, and prepared melodica (all one player)
8 minutes
Commissioned by Russ Irwin for Mark Robson
2015

Toy piano is a ridiculous instrument. I don’t mean that in a bad way, though. There’s a sort of poignant humor in seeing a fully-grown concert pianist hunch down to plink out little bell sounds. Even better if they’re in formal concert attire. It’s like watching someone pretending to be a kid and (usually) failing miserably.

When Mark Robson asked me to write a piece for toy piano for him that’s the first thought I had. Against my better judgment I decided to run with it, and have come up with a very serious, totally absurd little set of pieces. Disconsolate Children’s Music is about dealing with the promises of childhood that fall through, and searching for a way to make adult life worthwhile.

Here’s what took shape in my mind while I was writing:

I. You Are My Solar Constant. Have you ever listened to the lyrics to “You are my sunshine?” Whoever is singing is clearly emotionally dependent on whomever they’re singing to. That may be because they’ve been through the next two movements, and have decided (consciously or not) that the most meaningful use of their time in the universe is to give it to someone else.

II. Twinkle Twinkle Little Thermodynamic Equilibrium. Wonder where all the stars went? They burned out on the way to the heat death of the universe. Rather than being a violent, explosive ending, thermodynamic equilibrium is the theorized situation in which everything peters out to nothingness, starting around 10100 years from now. It’s cool though, you’ll be dead by then.

III. At the foot of the spout. This is the sort of redemptive, triumph-of-spirit movement of the piece. Regardless of the first two movements, and no matter how absurd and oppressive our circumstances, we have to keep trying. There’s not a great way to summarize it in a program note, but go read Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus for why. Here, the piano’s absurdly difficult-to- play and attention-grabbing circumstances are oppressive to the itsy bitsy spider, climbing the spout.

That doesn’t stop him from climbing, though.

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