Glenn Stallcop Composer, Performer
Ritual Variations (1980)
for Solo Piano
1 Mvt., 12 Mins.
Ritual Variations is available here from American Composers Alliance.
Program Notes with Score Video
In 1980, I found an album of Steve Reich’s Music for Eighteen Musicians tucked away in a local record store. I had not been very interested in Minimalism to that point, but this work spurred my imagination about what the style could produce. For about a year afterward I explored various aspects of the Minimalistic approach. I was intrigued by the idea of organizing music with rhythm and texture, thus allowing different sounds, harmonies, and lines to mingle freely in different and seemingly unrelated spheres.
Ritual Variations for solo piano was my first exploration of the idea. Minimalism usually uses repetition for momentum, and that is where I started, with a two-bar pattern of 3/2 time. The music of the first two bars is split into five structural levels. Each structural level changes at a different speed, much like the music in an Indonesian Gamelan. What sounds like repetition is actually organized gradual change, because with every two bars one level is always different. The five original levels gradually work their way back into the texture at the end so that the ending and the beginning are the same. It seemed almost ritualistic, hence the name.
In 1980, personal computers were just a dream, if you wanted to hear the music you wrote, somebody had to play it. I practiced this piece but was unable to get it into performance shape. This was my first instance of trying to perform a work of this type, and it was a completely different experience. Performing a solo Minimalist work can be quite challenging both mentally and physically. The Minimalist works I wrote afterward were for various ensembles.