Motion Sonata (2005)
First performed by faculty at the University of Massachusetts on February 24, 2006: Stephen Walt, bassoon, Fredric Cohen, oboe, and Susan Nowicki, piano.
The Motion Sonata for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano was commissioned by bassoonist Stephen Walt. It is a three movement work with the first movement being the watershed movement, and the latter two movements offering contrast and formal balance.
"Cycling" puns on both the musical and non-musical aspect of the word. The movement has a rollicking, 6/8, "bicycling" feeling to it, and one can conjure images of a richly varied landscape seen along a journey. Musically the game is even more pronounced: the tonality progresses through the 12 different key signatures in a particular order that is retained through multiple cycles. In the Exposition, which is dense and rapidly-changing, diatonic themes come and go as quickly as the key areas themselves. In the Development (heralded by a thinner texture - each instrument sounding off briefly by itself) the keys are stretched and treated with repetitive techniques inspired by the Minimalists. The high point at the end of the Development samples several keys at once, before a clear return to the opening occurs. The Coda makes a sly metric shift to 4/4 and shoots forward to a high-spirited ending, like the ending of a race.
The three "motions" of the Sonata are, to my mind, interesting and unique ways of getting from one point to the other - ways less frequently taken, as opposed to walking, driving or flying. "Drifting" has connotations of great freedom - as one without a timetable for arrival. This movement is simultaneously free and introspective, for drifters move alone. Such motion offers the greatest freedom as well as the most stunning, and the most lonely, experiences.
The brief, cheerful "Bouncing" also puns on its title: there are always themes in each instrument that gain momentum by retaking and bouncing ever "higher" (or longer), like three different-sized people on a trampoline.
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© by Edward B. Marks Music Company. BMI.
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Performers on recording:
Stephen Walt - Bassoon
Fredric Cohen- Oboe
Susan Nowicki - Piano