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Ghost Steps
For Cello and Offstage Percussion
Op. 23 (2024)

This piece in some ways functions as a companion piece to one of my very favorite works ever written, Henri Dutilleux's Trois Strophes sur le Nome de Sacher (1976), a piece for solo cello in a bizarre alternate tuning (Bb-F#-D-A). At times, such an involved piece with a different tuning can act as a deterrent from cellists tackling the piece. Hopefully, the chance to play more than just one piece in that scoring helps.

The piece underwent a fairly long period of gestation (as they normally do with me) before sitting down to start the principal composing. It began in the Fall of 2023 and finished in June of 2024. The trick was coming up with the best way to make use of offstage percussion, and also make the score legible and interesting. How do you write music for two musicians who will not be able to see each other?

The cello opens on its own in a kind of otherworldly cadenza, before the percussion joins. The piece makes considerable technical demands of the cello part (more demanding than I had originally planned, but what can you do). The second movement has the two performers taking turns in long lines, and the blistering and wild third movement asks them to play together in a very fast tempo, while being out of sight of each other.

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