Composer Notes

Have you ever played a piece and wondered what was on the composer's mind as they were creating it? The purpose of these Composer Notes is to give you insight into the creative process behind the music in my piano books. The entries are a mixed bag of teaching hints, musical influences, alternate fingerings, structural analyses, and the care that went into creating collections suitable for teaching, learning and performing.

Click to enlarge the original manuscripts, listen to sound clips, and click on the link to the books page to find out how to order your copy. I am working on three new titles right now, and will upload the note entries for those books at the time of their release. Play on!

Rainbow Swirl (Blog Entry 3/3) — Late Intermediate (Grade 7) D Major 9/8, 6/8, 3/4, 2/4

June 27, 2010 From its beginnings in 2002, and after eight years of on-and-off composing, I was finally taking The Color Collection to print. Prior to publishing I took a good hard look at the order of the pieces in the book. Originally Purple had appeared as the 9th piece, just before Rainbow Swirl, in the same order as the colors in I Feel Orange Today. I chose to change the order and place Purple 4th because it belonged alongside other pieces of a similar level. Why is this important? Because if you want to solve Rainbow Swirl's musical puzzle, the harmonic progression of the piece would need to be re-written if the published order of the collection changed. So, now Rainbow Swirl went through its last re-write, thus:

Section A: Melody loosely based on poem (Measures 1-7)

Measure 1 D Major Orange
Measure 2 a minor Gray
Measures 3-4 D Maj, a min (Orange and Gray repeated)
Measure 5 C Major Blue
Measure 6 a minor Purple
M6 beat 9 G note Yellow (M32 has G Major 6th interval B-G)
Measure 7 E Major Black (final chord of the piece)
Raindrop Sequence: (Measures 8-12)
Measure 8 E Major Black
Measure 8 E-flat Major Green
Measure 9 d minor Red
Measure 9 c-sharp min White

Section B Thunder Storm Sequence: Original melodic and harmonic material (Measures 13-26)

A Major (Dominant of D), finishing on D pedal tone with A7 and D alternating in the right hand.

Section A': Based on Section A with expanded arpeggios (Measures 27-34)

Raindrop Sequence: (Measures 35-37)
Closing material: (Measures 38-43)

As with many of my pieces there are the two tonalities competing throughout the piece. These two tonalities are not always related keys and the original tonic usually doesn't win. In Rainbow Swirl D is the original tonic. D and A duke it out and eventually A wins, D giving way with a lovely Plagal IV-I cadence.


Available as part of The Color Collection.

Purple Mystery — Early Intermediate (Grade 4) a minor 4/4

April 16, 2006 I originally thought I would write this as a canon, and sketched an idea on April 16, 2006. But then I focused on the lost shoes mentioned in the poem, and thought it would make a great detective piece, like the theme music for Inspector Gadget. In June 2006 Paul had an ACA conference in St. John’s Newfoundland, and I went along for the trip (without the kids!). While Paul attended a talk by author Michael Crummy, I filled in my time in the hotel lobby and composed on the grand piano there, finally with the spare time to write Purple down. Here’s an inside scoop on composing: it often doesn’t sound that great. You play and stop and play and stop. Some passers-by thought I was a hired musician and sniffed, thinking I wasn’t that great to listen to. One mom and her daughter chatted for a while, but as a completely unknown and unpublished composer, I simply listened to their stories and stayed pretty quiet about myself. I think it is cool that Purple has that connection to Newfoundland, even though the Newfies mistook my artistic process as the playing of a very bad lounge pianist!


Available as part of The Color Collection.

Rainbow Swirl (Blog Entry 2/3) — Late Intermediate (Grade 7) D Major 9/8, 6/8, 3/4, 2/4

December 29, 2006 As a full-time Mom and piano teacher, composition often came last place, only if I had everything else done, or no one was hungry or hurt or if the house was quiet and no one needed me. The Christmas holiday was an opportune time to compose. My days were unscheduled, the kids had new toys to keep them busy, and Paul snoozed in the afternoons with a full tummy. Rainbow Swirl had been worked out on the piano much earlier, and was finally written down on December 29-30, 2006. Now that more of the pieces were written, I was able to expand the musical puzzle, with the raindrop sequence in measures 8-10, moving through E major (Black), E-flat major (Green), d minor (Red), and c-sharp minor (White). The thunderstorm sequence was challenging to write out, because I wanted to be very clear about beat emphasis and tempo. Notice that Purple is still missing.


Available as part of The Color Collection.

Red Line — Intermediate (Grade 6) d minor 4/4

March 29, 2006 Our kids were now old enough for Paul and I to go to concerts, and we were lucky enough to hear Michael Kaeshammer. His boogie-woogie baselines were so thrilling and I wanted that kind of energy and exhaustion for Red. I played around with it for several weeks, focusing on the energy of the poem, rather than the rhythm of the words, and wrote it out in full on March 29, 2006. Stylistically, the RH line at measure 17 always reminds me Bartók. Several people have asked what a Red Line is – it is the centerline on a hockey rink where the puck drops and the game begins. The tempo marking says “On Edge”, so imagine the intensity felt when two teams face off. In summer 2008 I entered Red Line in CBC’s contest for the new Hockey Night in Canada theme. Holly Carr’s original illustration was a penguin and polar bear facing off, and I loved it, but we wanted to extend the circus theme from the cover, and the bear riding a unicycle on a tightrope was a suitable replacement. The polar bear and penguin version is available as a sheet music download for those who would prefer it.


Available as part of The Color Collection.

White Drift — Late Intermediate (Grade 7) c sharp minor 4/4

August 31, 2005 For some reason I had Christmas on the brain in August 2005. I had just created Jolly Pachelbel, and I created White with a beginning that reminded me of swirling snowflakes. I like playing this with fingers 2 and 3 on the black keys and the thumb tucking under to the white key, like the c-sharp minor scale pattern, but if you prefer to play it like a five-finger pattern, you are free to create a new fingering that makes you feel comfortable. At measure 6 when the melody comes in, you can almost hear the words, but because this poem is so long, I knew I would have to create the music as its own entity for the sake of unity. From here it is also inspired by Spanish guitar music, which is an odd way to express music with a wintery flavor, but somehow it works! When he first heard it, Paul asked what it was. “White.” “Of course it is!” He replied. This has remained one of my favorites and I always play it on snowy days. I think this piece would be beautiful as a wedding solo. It is for “new beginnings”!


Available as part of The Color Collection.

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