Michael Tilson Thomas: Upon Further Reflection (for piano) - Digital

Digital Device Download for piano (Non-printable)

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Additional Info

  • Composer
    Michael Tilson Thomas
  • Publisher


For piano

1. Bygone Beguine (6'15")
2. Sunset Soliloquy (13')
3. You Come Here Often? (4'30")

Composer note

Bygone Beguine

In the early 1970s, I was falling in love for the first time, experiencing those radiant, achy, free-fall, out of control feelings.

The emotional streams resolved themselves into music for a cross-cultural ensemble I was hearing in my head. I could play it for some time before I could imagine how it might be written down. This piece was originally a simple little song, but one that reflected all of my inescapable influences, including ragas, gamelan, bossa-nova, the piano music of Schumann and Debussy, as well as the musical language of Monteverdi and Berg and Peggy Lee's inimitable rendition of the song Alley Cat. All of these flowed together in a way that seemed completely natural…to me anyway. The ensemble under my fingers consists of a free-floating treble melody, a rhythm section riff, a baritone horn or trombone line, and a bass line. I sometimes played this piece in restaurants, spelling some of my pianist friends. I also played it on some first dates, most importantly the one with the man who became my husband.

One memorable Sunday afternoon I drove up to Danbury, Connecticut to play it for Laura Nyro, whose music and spirit have been an enduring part of my life. It was a laid-back sunny day. Laura and her friends were lounging poolside listening to old R&B. She affectionately encouraged me to write more. The piece is dedicated to her.

Sunset Soliloquy
(Whitsett Avenue 1963)

In the late afternoon the sun poured through the Venetian blinds in bands of shimmering light. It was a time for me to be alone with the piano in my parent's darkened living room. As my father and his father before him, I was seeking, through improvisation, some kind of understanding of who I was. I was already aware of the many "me's" whose spirits seemed to inhabit one or another of my hands. My left hand was the home of a reflective spirit that arched in lyrical phrases like a cello solo. My right hand was ruled by a scampering spirit that zanily darted about in fits and starts like fractured village music full of caprices and clashes. Now and again, there was a much gentler music — a duet played by both hands one tentative finger at a time. Eventually my hands found a way to make all of this music simultaneous and independent, gradually uniting in a shared cry after which they quietly and somewhat nonchalantly fade away.

The piece is a record of that process. It’s been startling to see all of it written down. The beginning, the duet, and the ending are much as they were when the first piece came into focus some 50 years ago. The right-hand music was tougher to resolve. It seemed it had other urges, and meandered its way toward the more thoughtful and lyrical world of its partner.

You Come Here Often?
(Hello Stranger, 1977)

In the mid 1970s I was living in New York. I was working on a theater piece contrasting the lives of uptown and downtown people and the unpredictable ways in which their lives might sometimes intersect. One scene in this show took place around a downtown loft’s private club on Saturday night. Bits of music could be heard from the street as you approached, and, as you passed the front door and snaked your way upstairs, it got louder and louder until you were enveloped in the joyous and throbbing throng.

In this scene, two people with some history unexpectedly run into one another. To their great surprise, they have something left to say to one another. During the gaps in the music they try to get in a few casual, defiant, and some tender words before the exultant cacophony overwhelms it all.

The virtuoso piano piece made from the music from the show is called “You Come Here Often?”. It is inspired by and dedicated to a great artist and a dear friend, Yuja Wang.

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