Four Rosicrucian Preludes
About this work:
In January of 1999 I began a year-long creative experiment called Ambulant Music, for Erik Satie: A Journal In Music, 1999. I resolved to compose something every day of the year, no matter how trivial. The completed journal includes several finished works, as well as lots of throw-away material, little jingle-like ditties, loose fragments, and personal jokes. The project had many interesting aspects for me. For example, it led me to pay attention to and develop material that I would otherwise have ignored, such as trite little tunes that pop into my head while driving. Instead of just letting those things pass through my brain and disappear, I would actually write them down and even work on them to see what they might become with a little nurturing. I learned a lot through the process, and in some ways the journal is more important for how I grew through it than for the actual music it contains.
The Four Rosicrucian Preludes were composed within the context of the journal. The first one appeared quite spontaneously, unbidden, with no thought of composing a particular kind of work or a set of related pieces. But once I had written it I felt that I wanted to compose more in that vein, so the following day I wrote another one. But here's the interesting part. I decided to use the preludes structurally, to give the journal more of a sense of an actual composition, and so made the decision to write another two preludes placed symmetrically within the time frame. That meant deferring work on the rest of the set for many months, and obligating myself to compose them on two specific days of the year, which is exactly what I did.
My preludes are quite consciously meant to evoke some of the qualities of the music of Erik Satie, in particular the early austere works of his "Rosicrucian" period that I so admire. I openly admit that in composing them I was trying my best to sound like Satie, as if communicating with him beyond time and space by composing in his style.
This idea relates directly to my thoughts on theme and variations as a mode to compose in. Rarely do composers write variations on their own raw material; instead, one works with another's theme, and in this way engages in a creative dialogue, a kind of collaboration, with another composer. I had spent the year of 1997 composing Serious Immobilities, 840 variations on Satie's enigmatic piano piece Vexations. Still somewhat obsessed with Satie at the time, composing the Preludes was a way of continuing that dialogue, but this time with my own themes.
Year composed: 1999
Ensemble type: Keyboard:Piano
Instrumentation: 1 Piano