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!

Yellow Boots — Early Intermediate (Grade 4) G Major 4/4

June 08, 2005 My first version of Yellow, created on October 24, 2004, was a complete dud, so it was all cut. Sticking to the rhythm of Patricia Godwin’s words didn’t really work with this one. When I revisited this piece on June 8, 2005, and wrote the first eight measures over, I decided to follow the rhythm of the poem for the first two measures only, with the rest written in the spirit of the words instead. On August 31, 2005, I finished it to the end, and later moved the RH of measure 12 up an octave to allow the music to build more, then added measure 13, in the style of a solo improvisation, a moment to show off. The overall style draws its inspiration from Ragtime, but uses swung eighth notes, so I call it a “hybrid Rag.”

 

Available as part of The Color Collection.

Rainbow Swirl (Blog Entry 1/3) — Late Intermediate (Grade 7) D Major 9/8, 6/8, 3/4, 2/4

June 01, 2005 This piece literally began from exploring the tonalities of the pieces of the collection, lined up in a row. Because the rainbow poem brings all the colors together, I thought it would be fun to do the same with the music. So, the Rainbow piece began as a key signature puzzle that would move chord to chord in the order of the keys of the pieces. So far I had Orange, with D major in measure 1, Gray, with a minor in measure 2, (repeated in measures 3 and 4), Blue, with C major in measure 5, and Black, which ends on an E major chord. But at this point in the project I hadn’t yet composed all the pieces (notice that Yellow and Purple are missing), so I would have to come back to it. All I had was a sketch of the melody (based loosely on the poem) and the letters of the chords. Although I was already playing the left hand patterns as printed, I didn’t have time to write them down and didn’t want to commit to them, anyway.

 

Available as part of The Color Collection.

Green Shade — Intermediate (Grade 6) E flat Major 6/8

May 21, 2005 I remember the creation of Green very clearly. It was evening and my last piano student had just left. She was a very talented student, but recently her attention had turned to basketball and her interest in piano lessons had waned. At her lesson she had just informed me that she would not be returning to piano lessons in the fall. This news made me very sad, so I turned to the piano and played and played until Green was done (I had time to actually write it down the following Saturday). It is composed in a style that I knew she would like. I thought other students her age would like Green Shade. The happy ending of the story is that this student returned to piano lessons, learned Green Shade and loved it.

 

Available as part of The Color Collection.

Orange Juice — Early Intermediate (Grade 3) D Major 4/4

July 03, 2003 It was the day before my 30th birthday! The orange poem, all about the beach, inspired me to write something like Caribbean music. On this day I got as far as eight measures. On April 20, 2004, I re-worked these eight measures with a new LH rhythm (more like the published one) that took turns with the RH so the hands only occasionally played together. This simplified the piece and made it more kid-friendly. I was learning to discipline my artistic side to make my music pedagogically functional. On October 23 I rewrote it again and created the music all the way to the end. After this there were only two minor edits. The most important was to figure out the RH of the final measure. After changing it many, many times, I finally made up my mind the moment I sent the final to the printer for proofing on September 1, 2010!

 

Available as part of The Color Collection.

Gray Day — Intermediate (Grade 5) a minor 4/4

February 18, 2003 This piece came together in one evening. Sometimes that happens. I had helped put my son to bed, and was carrying my baby daughter back down the stairs when the melody came to me mid-flight. I went straight to the piano, and the key I had heard in my head was the key it became: a minor. I was feeling rather sad about the passing of my soul-mate cat, Rose Petal Tortoise-Shell Tossed Salad (her name). With baby Heidi in my lap, I played out my thoughts for about half an hour until the piece was finished. I made two edits later to add eighth notes to measures 9 and 13 to flesh out the rhythm. Otherwise, my original sketch is printed note-for-note. Gray Day reminds me of Dmitri Kabalevsky’s A Little Song, op. 27, no. 2, a piece I have always loved.

 

Available as part of The Color Collection.

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