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Dialects-2 in African Pianism (The Lotus) Op. 21, 1987, Rev’d 1997
Dialects-2 is named "The Lotus" purposely as a reminder to me of some of the salient lessons from my studies in Eastern mysticism. The lotus plant takes nourishment from any kind of water with its leaves staying aloof untouched by its surroundings. This reflects the ego of man that uses a body to gather earthly experiences and remaining, in essence, absolutely unharmed but wiser in the end when the body is no longer needed. In a partial analytic commentary, the piece is architecturally structured. Both quartal and tertian harmonizations have been used to produce vital sonorities. Amateur and professional pianists encountering African piano music for the first time would find this music different from the traditional tertian-derived as well as other familiar compositions. The obvious reason for this is that it is based on the essence of folk elements. The harmonic structures for the most part are derived from juxtaposed fourths and frequently added seconds. The tertian-derived passages provide contrasts as well as heighten the quartal harmonic syntax. The asymmetric relationship within the first 6 measures, for instance, lies in part, in the strict realization of the left hand ostinato figure - in the proportion of : 5 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 5 + 4 + 3 - all set to 6/8 time. To capture the correct aesthetic feeling of the first 19 measures, then, the player must strictly execute the resultant tonalities as well as the built-in rhythms. The misterioso, mm. 20-33, consists of a dialogue between vertical and horizontal sonorities. After this hesitant generation of motion, the first section proper (mm. 34-107), ternary in structure, takes off without any interruptions. Mm. 108-230 comprise the middle section. Mm. 108-123, as well as, 163-230, should not present a problem to a player familiar with cross-rhythms. The right hand in these portions has its characteristic horizontal melodic character, while the left hand has its independent accompanying figurations that assume downward trajectories. The section is characterized by secondal, quartal, quintal juxtapositions in parallel motion. The performer, not adept at cross-rhythms, should learn to play each hand separately before combining the two. Again, strict realization of the different lines would produce the desired result. Much of the motion generated in this section is via melodic and harmonic sequences. Mm. 124 -162, the sandwiched portion, offer a relief from the persistent cross-rhythms. Again, tertian and quartal melodic sonorities engage our attention virtually at the same time. Does quartal harmonization, however, gain the upper hand? The driving left hand ostinato/pedal figure must be performed with African percussion mannerisms in mind. In other words, it must be devoid of any agogic accents. Mm. 231-246/16 functions as the bridge. It consists of an 8-measure figure of an antecedent and consequent (4 measures each). The antecedent assumes a zigzag upward trajectory that provides an added excitement. This is accompanied by the chromatic passage in 3-beat grouping. The consequent is characterized by a 2-tremolo cell figure that brightens the upper register of the keyboard. This bridge provides us with a moment of rhythmic interplay and prepares the way for the re-statement of the opening section. Mm. 350 to the end function as the Coda. After the deep pedal tones, the quartal melodic/harmonic syntax, then probes the extreme registers of the keyboard and leads to a gradual dissipation of energy. The piece ends with a big bang. Tertian harmonic generations are not tyrannical after all - are they?
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