From Stillness


To be still sometimes means to be calm, tranquil; also motionless, silent.  In so being you may be more deeply aware of the surroundings, and when surroundings are also still, you may be more aware of yourself.  From stillness comes focus.  This is perhaps everyone’s dream.  Can you believe this is possible now?    All of us here this evening sit still in one place.  Perhaps we need an antithesis to experience it.  Perhaps we just need to begin. ~EH


Compositional Notes:


From Stillness is based on a seventeen-chord progression that has clear voicing and many shared pitches.  The simple chords appear melted into each other, their movement gradual and nearly still.    


There are four continuous sections.  Section one has two layers of music.  Separated by register, they follow the progression at their own pace.  The resonant property of the piano maintains a layer when the player cannot.  The listener’s ability to carry through a layer when the sound is in truth silent is an interest.  Chords grouped in pairs or threes appear in a bell-like, pendulum motion and bind the texture and character in both layers.  The bell appears in three manifestations in the piece: as a generative pendulum movement, as a static, single stroke, and as a more aggressive ostinato gesture.  The top layer acquires an additional florid, dust-like texture that’s at first delicate, obscured, then virtuosic.


A three-voice contrapuntal section follows, focusing on the middle register.  Though there are three voices, this section is more confined.  The voices are bound by the same progression, by their own registral cells, and by their organic function which they demonstrate several times as they travel through the progression.  However, the music is more sinuous than the choral voicing of the previous section, and is more active within its respective registral cells, and yet all in a tranquil manner.  These boundaries also move – the top voice especially shifts upwards.  Occasional chordal attacks disturb the calm movements – first more severely and suddenly, then, as in a spiral effect, they spread out from the point of attack and gradually dissolve.  The disturbances become more imposing and frequent.  The high and low layers of section one resurface in this guise and envelope the mid register. 


In section three, the music is bolder.  Figures that call back the first section now cover a more sweeping range and explore the lower register.  The progression, which the two layers co-operatively follow, has undergone a major melting process, yet no pitch material is missing.  The original progression of seventeen chords is now eight. 


The end calls back the sensitivity of the piece’s beginning.  Considering the concept of melting as a major element in the music, the next step in the process would be a disintegration of the pitch material.  The last section begins with a journey through the progression in a new lyrical fashion pared down to two-pitch relationships.  It begins a second time with certain material disintegrating, leaving the more vital pitches of the gestures in tact, but becoming increasingly engulfed by silence and stillness.  A third return brings further dissolution as well as a certain rhythmic pulling apart of the pitch pairs. 

Composer Emily Hall

Canadian Composer Emily Hall / Compositeur canadienne Emily Hall

                                                    Email / Courriel: Emily Hall