I. Florid Hopscotch
III. Slow waltz of the robots
I decided on a simple enough title for this piece early on: Trio. It's meant to reflect both the number of players and the number of movements that make up the piece. The names of movements themselves might leave one more curious than a quick glance at the title might reveal, and each movement does its best to stand alone, but in my mind these relatively short statements, taken together, make a complete musical paragraph.
It’s a piece for an occasion, and one for which I was very happy to contribute: the first concerts in a new concert hall in Boston at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, for the Claremont Trio, old friends and players I knew well. I scoured and researched on the internet, found the design plans of the architect, Renzo Piano, and watched the building grow in photos as I worked at home in Brooklyn. I was taken with the unusual shape of the hall, a vertical cube with four wrapping balcony levels hovering nearly directly over a square stage. The result, as I imagined: there is no front or back, left or right in what was eventually named Calderwood Hall. There is only up and down. I approached the second movement as a metaphor of homage to the hall: most of movement is vertical in nature, as was the intent. While I had focused on technical issues in composing the music, upon hearing it, I was surprised to find I’d hidden my engineering, those load-bearing columns, behind a skin that formed while I wasn’t looking. It was only as a listener that I realized the music in "Calderwood" formed the emotional core of Trio.
"Florid Hopscotch" serves as the intrada, albeit a slightly confused or frustrated one: a leaping staccato gesture starting in the piano argues for prominence with long flowing lines in the strings. "Slow waltz of the robots" is a pretty blunt take on something that, depending one’s view of such things, might be anywhere from sadly beautiful to horrifying and grotesque. Perhaps the music finds its way toward a bit of both, but the image hit me like a flash after I’d written the last note. I don’t like spoilers, but I’m inclined give this away: any battery-powered objects that would take it upon themselves to attempt such a charmingly useless human act as dancing would likely get a sympathetic view from me, at least until those batteries run out.
Trio was commissioned for the Claremont Trio by the Claremont Commission Consortium in honor of Calderwood Hall at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA, and premiered there on January 22, 2012.
— Sean Shepherd
This program note may be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with a credit to the composer.