Without presuming to place myself in their august company, I conceived of this set of short pieces as a mini-homage to two great contrapuntalists, J. S. Bach and the Texarkana-born iconoclast Conlon Nancarrow, who spent most of his working life in isolation in Mexico City, creating an astonishing set of studies for player piano. One of the things I most admire about both composers is their ability to work erudite compositional techniques into a musical surface that is inviting and emotionally rewarding. I have attempted to emulate that in these pieces.
Two lively, even playful, outer movements surround a quieter, more introspective middle movement. No movement is a strict canon or fugue but, like Bach’s inventions, each piece explores a variety of contrapuntal techniques, both imitative and free. Unlike Bach, however, I have also included some passages which are not strictly polyphonic. Live performers can seldom aspire to the rhythmic complexities of Nancarrow’s player piano pieces, but I have used simpler versions of the type of rhythmic devices he favored.
Three Inventions for Three Brass Instruments was written at the request of hornist Hubert Biebaut for the Belgian Brass Trio. It was composed during the last part of 1998 and the first few days of 1999.