Theme and Variations

for solo piano
duration: 5'
first performance: 15 February 2005; Taplin Auditorium, Princeton, NJ; Aaron Jackson, piano
availability: for sale
recording: non-commercial

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Instinct served me well through my first few years of college, but I ultimately came to a point where I felt like I didn't know how to write music anymore. My problem was fairly typical among young composers: I knew how to start a piece, and sometimes knew how to end it, but I generally had no idea what to do in the middle. The concept of "development" seemed very abstract to me, and I couldn't find a way to convincingly realize the idea in my own music.

My teacher at the time, Leonardo Balada, became frustrated with my slow progress and forced me to sit down and write a set of short piano variations. He hoped I would break through my creative impasse if I could just focus on how to manipulate one or two musical elements in a short, closed form.

It was a good assignment. These variations and the process I went through to make them were a watershed experience for me. Although short in duration, very simple, and somewhat "Prokofiev-like" in style, I nonetheless had a much better idea about how to develop material out into longer forms once I completed them.

I would like to extend my gratitude to pianist Aaron Jackson, who gave the first performance of the set in 2005, almost 10 years after they were completed.