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Brief Background Information, Experiences and Program Notes
Labi is a Ghanaian-American, who hails from Larteh, in the Akwapim district of the Eastern region of Ghana, some thirty-five miles from Accra, the capital. My early formal education, primary and secondary, occurred at Achimota School - where my father, Henry Christian Labi, taught mathematics, Twi (main vernacular) and Cultural Studies for about a quarter of a century. Entailed within the rich musical heritage at Achimota, was the projection of the Ghanaian cultural heritage through music, drumming and dance. Each year, for the "Founders’ Day" celebrations, students would be grouped according to their ethnic origins and each group would project its particular musical heritage. I watched these proceedings every year from my childhood days. Later, when I became a student at Achimota, I was to be a direct participant in these activities - absorbing all the different but similar ethnic music traditions. The music heritage at Achimota School included the Western orchestral ensemble, the instruments of which students obtained various diplomas in, particularly through the "Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music," organized from England. There was also the tradition of the yearly 9 Lessons and Carols, bi-annual operatic traditions (the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas being central), singing competition between the halls of residences, as well as gardening competitions. So, Western art music, in all its facets, was seriously studied as well as African music through direct and indirect participation. These are additions to the central arts, science and sports curricula. At Achimota, I earned my Ordinary and Advanced (pre-university) level certificates – (The West Africa GCE). Included here were ABRSM certificates in Pianoforte (Grade XIII Final) and Theory (Grade XIII Final). Also earned, were London GCE – Ordinary and Advanced Level Certificates in Music, in particular. My study of Western and African music was to continue through the University of Ghana (1973-76 – BA Music with Philosophy) and emphasis on Western art music in my graduate studies, first at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaine (1977-80, MM. theory/composition), then a terminal degree at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio (1980-83, DMA. theory/composition). This is in recognition of the fact that these particular keys open all music doors. My post-graduate experiences include: • Music professorship at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, Anambra State 1984/85 • A return to the United States and having an orchestral Fantasia of mine performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra in July, 1986, with Tania Leon conducting. • Music professorship at Mercy College, Dubbs Ferry, New York – 1987 • A return to Ghana with a decade of service. First, music professorship at the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana and assisting with the music rehearsals of the Ghana National Symphony Orchestra and Chorus as well as becoming its director from 1996 – until my third departure for the United State in October 1997. At the University of Ghana, I advanced to the rank of Associate professor. • A significant development during my service at the University of Ghana was a commission from the Royal Liverpool Society for a new piece for Six Pianos and Orchestra with Piano Circus in mind – a group of six pianists who perform as an ensemble, based in London. The commission was in November 1995 with the premiere in November 1996.This performance was part of the celebration of the arts in Africa since antiquity. • Since 2000, I have been serving on the Editorial Board of ICAMD for the promotion and performance of the art music of Africa and its Diaspora, based in Missouri – • Music professorship at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey 2000 • Relocation to Essex County College, Newark, NJ for more research oriented course, 2001- 2004 • Relocation to Seattle in the State of Washington for the continuation of my creative career and readiness to re-join academia anytime from now. Other orchestras and organizations that I have collaborated with include the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, City University Orchestra of Kansa City and Music Noir of Vancouver that held a concert in honor of Professor Akin Euba of University of Pittsburgh and me. My String Quartet No. 1 (At The Immaculate Beehive) in Two Movements as well as my Ancient Pespective-3 (Timpani Concertino) were premiered at this time. Presently, I have completed two orchestral pieces in African Symphonism. These and other have reached the music director of Seattle Symphony. Other orchestras would also be reached shortly.
PROGRAM NOTES Dialects-5 In African Pianism ’Tenderly Loving a Rose’ (Op. 25, 1993, Rev’d. 2009)
I am providing a general outline of the piece to assist further analytic study, for the benefit of scholars/students who may be interested in this aspect of this piece. In the Introductory Section only the essence of the Akan folk element that inspired this piece has remained. Its transformed nature may be found from mm.18-24. The rest of the piece portrays the nature of my acculturation over time. Frequently, I use musical inflections that are governed by nuances entailed within Ghanaian languages that I have assimilated, sometimes without being able to speak the unlearned vernaculars – my interest being in just the tonal inflections.
Introduction (mm. 1-24) This Introductory Section consists of 3 differing but related motives: Motive a, (mm. 1-4/4). It is essentially a 2-part unison call. Motive b1, (mm. 5-73) antecedental in function - consisting of repeated note-chords of superimposed thirds. Motive b2. (mm. 8-17/10) – consequential in function. This is characterized by the holding outer notes with inner moving thirds in contrary motion. Motive c – (mm. 18-24/6) – Mm. 18-21 = c1 – antecedental in function and mm. 22-24 = c2 – consequential in function. Motive c then, is the essence of the folk theme itself. The introduction establishes the tonal area of C.
PART I (mm. 25-93)/69 mm. After the panoramic presentation of introductory motives, Part 1 ensues. Its tertian passage, in the right hand, exhibits hymn-like characteristics. In other words, we now have the SATB principle in one hand. This is combined with the piston-driven left hand, quartal in character that assumes a downward trajectory to the lower regions of the keyboard. The other elements to watch out for would be: a) quartal harmonic and melodic motions of the left hand, as well as its piston-driven character, speech-like in form, in a downward trajectory, adds to the gravity of this section and takes attention from its accompanying melody counterparts b) the ancient 7th chords for their coloring, melodic and harmonic potentials c) Two Bridge Passages preceding Part II
Bridge I (mm. 95-105)/11). This is basically speech governed statement with its tremolo ostinato accompaniment Bridge II (mm 106-132)/27). This quartal passage is a derivative of the quartal singing mannerisms heard during "Ada Dipo" festive occasions.
PART II (mm. 133-250)/118 The essential outline of this part is as follows: (Mm. 133-170)/38) = Segment a It is antecedental in function and self-sustaining at the same time. After the hesitation of motion, marked by a rest punctuation, the segment takes off. It hovers around the tonal center of C (mm. 139-144) – utilizing the major-minor modalities here. The tonal center G is tonicized (mm. 145-164) and becomes the anchor to which the upward receding tones return. Tonal center C (mm. 165-170) is again tonicized. The delicate nature is this part is marked by the several metric shifts one encounters. The left hand, not only suggests harmonic activity but supplies the percussion dimension as well. The overall activity is one of melody, harmony and percussion accompaniment co-existing. (Mm. 171-177)/8, constitute Segment b. It is consequential in function and self-sustaining at the same time Mm. 178-190)/13 constitute Segment a, Variant I in Eb Mm. 191-202)/12 is Var. II of the Principal Theme, centered in E and a harmonic and rhythmic variant. Mm. 203-206)/4, constitute Var. III in F. (Mm. 207/208) confirms the F and (mm. 209-210) momentarily tonicizes the F# on its way to G. Mm. 211-220)/10. Constitutes Var. IV in G while (mm. 220-227)/8 constitutes the restatement of Var. IV Mm. 228-250/23, constitute Var. V in Ab (major/minor tonality). Part II itself is monothematically conceived. It is characterized by the constant alternation of the right and left hands. The parallel 3rds and 6ths of the right hand are nearly consistently maintained as the music moves through the various keys. The left hand provides stable pedal figurations with the regularity reminiscent of an accompanying percussive instrument.
Bridge passage to PART III Three different motives usher in the themes of Part III. These are: Motive a, as in (mm. 251, 253 & 256) - essentially a mini chromatic scale passage; Motive b (m. 255) consisting of thumbing repeated chords in both hands; Motive c (m. 252) - consisting of ostinato repeated chords in the bass line. These three motives usher in Part III. The basic themes of Part III mimic Akan singing mannerism where songs begin from higher tessituras, frequently in thirds and/or unisons and gradually descend to the lower registers.
PART III (mm. 257-347)/91 (Mm. 257-265)/8 constitutes the dance-like Theme I It is antecedental in function, yet self-sustaining at the same time. Mm. 265-272/8 is the repetition of theme 1. It is accompanied by a rather charming speech-like bass line that compensates for the previous ostinato bass line. (Mm. 273-280)/8. constitute Theme II. It is in unison, an octave apart, and in a downward trajectory. It is consequential to Theme I. It is also self-sustaining at the same time. Mm. 281-294/13 constitute Theme III with its superimposed thirds. Because of the self-sustaining nature of these themes, Theme III could be seen as consequential to Theme II, just as Theme II is seen as consequential to Theme I. When themes are considered self-sustaining, it implied that they do not need other balancing themes to feel complete. Bridge IV (mm. 295-303)/8 now leads to the return of minimally varied Theme I Mm. 320-331/32 constitutes the Quazi-development of Part II A solemn theme is stated in Cb (mm 320-327/7). This preserves the church-like atmosphere of Part II, Theme I. This is then followed by a chromatic descending 5-note arpeggiated chords – a P.5 distance down. All the while, this segment is supported by an A4 alberti or tremolo figuration in the Left Hand that also participates in the chromatic descent. Mm. 348-359/12 constitutes a variant of the solemn theme from the beginning of the quazi-development section (m. 320). Its 32 measures have now shrunk to 12 measures. The varying element pertains to the bass line where first points of articulation are unevenly silenced. Mm. 360-394/35 constitutes continued development of preceding elements and also forms a bridge to the Reprise. Mm. 360-367/8 constitutes the fourth and final statement of theme II of Part II. It is stated in Ab minor, then continues to unfold, going through other keys. The throbbing bass figuration and a triplet figure are ever present to the end of this development section.
REPRISE (Mm. 395-525/131) Principal Theme consists of (mm. 395-444)/50. This is the principal theme without its introductory gestures. Bridge I in Part I (mm. 95 – 105/11) now returns in mm. 445-457/12 while Bridge II in Part I, mm 106-132/27 also returns in mm. 458-464/7 – this time significantly reduced. Principal Theme, Var. I mm. 465-525/61. This consists of the slower Andante section. Its dramatic devises include the parallel superimposed 4ths and the sighing leaps in the left hand, 3-note cells of exposed octaves in the right hand, the defiant cells consisting of minor 3rds leaping onto the upper neigboring minor 3rd. in the crossing left hand that represents a speech-like affirmation of victory. The ancient 7th chords in the right hand, the modulatory dimensions, the broadening allargando at the end, all add to the dramatic character of this segment. In panoramic view is Bridge II to Part II (mm. 527-556)/30. This is the "Dipo" Introductory material to Part II in reiteration. The Closing Section (mm. 547-573)/27. This consists of 3 dramatic segments. The first is in mm. 547-556)/9. It is a closing cadencial segment carved out of the monothematic theme of Part II. The second, mm. 556-560)/5. is a tease from the Andante that had just preceded. The third is a 4-part parallel 16th- note figure that dramatically ends the piece. E. Gyimah Labi Seattle, August 2009
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