for violin and piano

Program Notes

Larry Polansky


Movement in E Major for John Cage was written with an unusual motivation: a deliberate musical homage to John Cage's Nocturne for violin and piano. The Nocturne, along with other major works of Cage from the late 1940's (like the String Quartet and the Sixteen Dances) had a powerful effect upon my musical thinking in my early 20's. Cage's use of tonality, extension of time, extraordinary rhythmic sensibility and elegance of form interests me tremendously. I wanted to compose in Movement ... a work which was a kind of commentary on Cage's work from a composer of different background, motivations, and with a different set of evolving interests.

Movement ... became the first of two "parallel" sets of instrumental works for me. The first is a series of pieces which reference (equal tempered) tonality, but use it in unusual ways. These pieces, like Quartet in F for Paul Ravitz and (Sh'ma): Fuging Tune in G, unlike much of my other work, use conventional instruments and more or less conventional 12-tone equal temperament, but try to adopt a somewhat unusual approach to tonality, avoiding notions of functional harmony in favor of a deliberate emphasis on each pitch's unique relation to the tonal center.

In the second set of pieces begun with Movement ... each piece is a kind of "short story" for a given composer or artist (for example, Movement for Lou Harrison for Just Bass Quartet, and Movement for Andrea Smith (My Funny Valentine for Just String Quartet)). In these works, my intent has been to try and achieve a certain unity, simplicity and directness of musical idea. Movement for E Major for John Cage is characteristic of both of the above sets of works.


Larry Polansky