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David Lang

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Memory Pieces (1992)
Red Poppy
Solo Keyboard(s)
Year Composed
30 Minutes
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Programme Note
David Lang Memory Pieces (1992)
Composer Note:

One of the horrifying things about growing older is that your friends don’t all grow older with you. People grow sick and then they die. You watch, you try to comfort them, and then you try to comfort yourself. The true horror is that after a while your memories begin to fade. How long can you hold on to the sound of a voice, the memory of a strange event, a bittersweet feeling, a silly story?

I was friends with all the dedicatees of the enclosed set of pieces – some were closer friends than others – and I have very personal memories of my dealings with them that I don’t want to fade. Each of these little pieces highlights some aspect of my relationship with each friend. I hope this will help me hold on to these memories just a little while longer.

There are a few ways to approach these pieces. In one respect they are inventions, each an intellectual and philosophical exploration of one distinct, mechanical way to make music. They are also little etudes, as each one highlights a different technical concern, such as overlapping arpeggios (spartan arcs), polyrhythmic counterpoint (wed) or strange cross-hands (cello). The way I choose to look at them is as laboratories for larger works. If I can incorporate the music or the ideas or the techniques of these little pieces into other works then I am in some way keeping something of my friendship alive.

These pieces were composed chronologically in the order in which they are here printed, and this order makes a certain amount of musical sense. It is not necessary to follow this order, however, and these pieces may be played singly or in other groupings. The duration of the entire set should be about 30 minutes.

I would like to thank the different pianists who have either premiered one or more of these works or who have offered advice about how to edit or present these pieces – David Arden, Carlo Boccadoro, Anthony de Mare, Moritz Eggert, Lisa Moore. Most of all I want to thank Yvar Mikhashoff – I was writing Yvar a piece when John Cage died (12 August 1992). I put that piece aside and wrote cage, which Yvar then played several times. Yvar was already ill then and it was his idea that I write a series of memorial pieces. If there is any one person to whom this entire set should be dedicated it is Yvar.

—David Lang

Sample Pages

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  • 26 MAY 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    Adam Marks, conductor
  • 28 SEP 2012
    Dallas, TX
    Southern Methodist University
    Matt Albert, conductor

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