Some composition ideas never develop into much more than a few bars of music, and such was the case for many years with the opening to Dream Dance.
I think I started it around 1997, and, try as I might, I could not seem to find any satisfactory way to take it much beyond the 30-second mark, the point where it veers unexpectedly
(to me, at least) towards minimalism. To the best of my knowledge, compositions that begin in a non-minimalist way do not usually take a stylistic hop into minimalism. For most composers, at least reasonable ones, this would probably have been a good indicator not to continue down that path. But in Dream Dance, as illogical as it appeared, it actually made musical sense , perhaps because of the steady flow of sixteenth-notes common to both the opening, and the "hinting at minimalism" section.
The problem was that I couldn't figure out what to do once I had had been on that path for a while. It didn't make sense to me that the opening idea should evolve into a full-blown minimalist composition, but I didn't know where to take it once it had touched on minimalism. And thus, unsure of what to do with this material, I tossed it in a drawer and mostly forgot about it for about ten years.
In the summer of 2007 I was looking at old musical sketches that never went anywhere, and resolved to wrestle this opening into submission; it seemed a shame to waste what seemed like a good opening for a piece, and I thought I could perhaps extend it into a relatively short work (perhaps three minutes), and be done with it.
As is often the case, it was difficult to take the music in a direction with which I could be satisfied, and I ended up struggling mightily with with the project for an additional six months until it was finally finished. The key in moving forward was in realizing that a composition can touch on different moods and styles and still make musical sense, as long as there is something tying it all together, which in this case is the almost incessant sixteenth-note activity. The use of multiple styles or techniques of music within a composition is sometimes called "polystylism" (I prefer the less-fancy term,"stylistic hodgepodge"), which is associated with the music of Alfred Schnittke, Peter Maxwell Davies, Michael Colgrass, George Rochberg, and others. But this sounds nothing like their music…
A few features that may be of interest:
Dream Dance was premiered on February 9, 2008 during the Newfound Music Festival in St. John's, in a flawless performance by my friend and colleague, Kristina Szutor.
It was also performed in 2009-2010 by Mikako Ogata at several venues in Japan, and in New York City.
Other works for piano by Clark Ross you might enjoy:
iPad Riff Recontextualized (Inspired by the music of an iPad commercial; 2010)
Domenico 1° & 2° (Two sonatas inspired by Scarlatti; 2009)
Last Dance (Juno nominated slow tango, called "haunting and beautiful" by Jon Kimura Parker; 1999)
Jennifer's Tune (A pretty tune (for piano and bass) for my wife; 2005)
Julia's Prelude (A pretty tune for my daughter, in the style of Schumann; 1996)
Keep on Truckin' (Boogie-woogie blues with a dash of Mussorgsky in the middle; 2010)
Blues for Jim (Both a lament and a celebration of the life of Jim Croce; 2010)
Late Night Music (Jazz-inspired work for trumpet, piano, drum kit, and bass)
©Clark Winslow Ross