Percussion Keyboards Strings Winds Mixed Ensembles Electronic              

Rites of Passage
for toy piano or music box

Work no. 39

Like the Exopheromones, or The Dreaming Union, this work has a strong conceptual side. The melodic and harmonic content of Rites of Passage is extremely simple, but as time goes by, the music is played slower and slower, until the pauses between individual sounds are extremely long. Because of how limited the melodies are, it's possible for the listener to predict which sound is coming, but not when it is going to come – or if it's going to come at all. In an ideal setting, the listener becomes more and more aware of the sounds of their environment as the piece progresses, completing a kind of rite of passage. Likewise, the performer has to contend with increasingly difficult task of playing at almost impossibly low tempi, and they can choose to either comply, thereby comleting their rite of passage, or to try to cheat in one way or another.

The concept was inspired by music boxes: as a music box unwinds, the tempo slows down. Another work with the same inspiration was Canon in Changing Tempi for S.C.B., completed three years later, in which the first page of the piece can be turned into a music box of wildly unpredictable (for the listener) tempi, while retaining the sweet, dreamy quality of the instrument's sound. (Since it proved impractical at the time – music box makers aren't always interested in contemporary music – I ended up composing for MIDI-controlled pianos instead in e.g. Two Studies or Study V.) Those qualities also informed a different piece for toy piano, performed by a whistling pianist: Acacia Variations. Rites of Passage was premiered by Iris Ritter Gerber in June 2013 at Alte Schmiede, Vienna. The first publically available recording of Rites of Passage was done by Marco Inchingolo and is linked below:

PDF score

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