Braided Bagatelles is a solo piano work that consists of an interlocking chain of
variations on a theme, and related dances. There are several processes at work in the piece:
---The variations and dances alternate, playing off common material between them, creating
a flow of constantly mutating ideas.
---These sections are designed to grow both shorter and more frequent in their
appearance as the piece progresses, so that the rate of change between them is at its most
dramatic at the end of the work. The combined processes of interlock and compression suggest
the structure of an actual braid.
---The variations and dances also group into larger units, which form a series of five
movements for the piece, played without pause:
1. Marking the Field
The work is fanciful and athletic, as its subtitle implies. In its often primal motivic
materials, it pays homage to the great variation sets of Beethoven (especially the 32 Variations
on an Original Theme in C Minor), and in its elements of theater and sonic invention, the
music of such modern German composers as Mauricio Kagel and Helmut Lachenmann.
In the fourth movement, “Floating”, the pianist must make a light stroke over the flat
front of the piano keys with his/her fingernails. The stroke is done with the right hand in mm.
200-209. In mm. 209-214 the white keys are stroked in a more precise rhythmic pattern, first
by the right hand, then both. Then, in mm. 215-219, the pianist concludes the movement by
continuing the brushing motion in the left hand, with “normal” playing in the right, but all the
music in these measures is mimed just above the keyboard in the pattern indicated by the
Finally, the performer may open with work with an optional improvisation based on the
entire piece to come, no longer than two minutes. If done, this should be like a
phantasmagoric summary of the work to come, a dream of the piece. The performer should do
this only 1) if s/he feels comfortable doing so, 2) can project the material musically and
virtuosically, and 3) after having absorbed the notated music fully.
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