19 Preludes for Uncertainty

In 2020 we are experiencing a pandemic situation that has been unprecedented in most of our lifetimes. The world as we knew it will not be the same. I am finding it difficult to manage the complex emotions that are churned up by this situation. Therefore I am putting them into music. My intent with these pieces is to create empathy with the listener.

1. Isolation

This is the first in the set. It features a repetitive left hand figure with a melody that changes between positive and somber. There is a thin texture, representing the feeling of being isolated and alone. The middle section is melancholy–wondering how long will we be in this situation.

2. Restricted

All of a sudden we have restrictions imposed on us that send us so many messages. I wanted to create a piece that had its own restrictions. The right hand melody in this piece uses just the notes B, C#, D, and E (you will hear a couple of other notes in this range but they are not part of the overall melody). Similarly, the left hand has the same chord progression throughout, just changing patterns. Even though we are restricted there is still much we can do, and hope and peace can still exist in this state.

3. Contemplation

J.S. Bach is one of my favorite composers of all time. He wrote thousands of works, many of which were in a form known as a chorale. A chorale is usually a piece in 4 parts that is often sung at a church service. I wrote this piece on Bach’s birthday, March 21. Some of the harmonies are peaceful, some of them contain lots of tension. Some of the rhythms are regular, some are irregular. These two elements combined reflect how I am feeling as we navigate one day at a time: sometimes hopeful, sometimes somber, trying to find a grounding presence.

4. Six Apart

This piece has a dual meaning: six feet apart, as dictated by social distancing, as well as six degrees apart–this affects every single one of us. The motifs in the right hand figure are in the musical interval of a 6th, which provides interesting harmonies throughout. The faster tempos in some parts of this piece are inspired by my running friends. Through this pandemic, we have been meeting and running 6-10 feet apart, being very careful to not have too large of a group. There are no cars on the road, so it is not that hard to do. The piece builds to a frenzy, how long will we have to stay six feet apart? It ends with the intervals getting smaller and harmonies more peaceful. Hope.

5. Bergamo

I wrote this piece the day I read a haunting article in the NY Times about a region in Italy that was extremely hard hit with the virus. Bergamo is approximately the same size as the city I live in, so the facts were even more sobering. My family and I really love both New York and Italy, and we follow the soccer teams of this region. I wanted to write something that was a lament for anyone who has lost someone close to their hearts from this virus. The opera composer, Donizetti, was from Bergamo. Therefore I wrote this in the “bel canto” operatic style, flowing themes with a painful melody. The big buildup at the end represents the exponential path of this disease. All we can do is mourn.

6. Forest Canopy

One element of this quarantine that has been a true positive is that I have been able to appreciate nature even more. The birds are still singing, the daffodils are blooming, the grass is green. We are fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest and have a couple of city parks with some pathways that envelop you in nature. Some of them are a true rainforest just minutes from my front door. This piece was inspired by a walk with my family to one of these parks that has hundreds of tall Douglas fir trees with many varieties of moss. Next to the trees are ferns and all sorts of other green plants, with hints of color in some of the blossoms. Something about the color green is peaceful and expansive. The slow tempo in this piece is meant to reflect the grandeur of these majestic trees and the infinite feeling you have when you look up in the forest.

7. Droplets

The word “droplet” became everyday discourse during spring 2020. Tiny moist particles. In the context of the pandemic, droplet has a negative, dark connotation. But as one of my running friends pointed out, the droplets of the rain in the forest are peaceful and soothing. This piece juxtaposes both types of droplets–the small whiffs of droplets and the steady rain.

8. Family

This piece is dedicated to my family–immediate, extended and honorary. I am grateful to be part of a large and wonderful family. We have been able to connect in different ways during this time. I wanted to write something that was heartfelt and familiar, seeing how we are navigating so many unknowns right now. So, this piece is a piano pop ballad. There are not lyrics for this but I did imagine the words “We are Family” in the chorus section.

9. Days on Repeat

This darker piece depicts what I am feeling many of these days. What day is it? Is it a weekday? A weekend? The music repeats with a different key and left hand motif. Some variations are more intense than others and the piece ends with a hopeful mood. Things will change, we just don’t know when.