Listen to Trois petites pièces désséchées (1979).
Written by Brian Cherney for viola and piano in three movements.
Trois petites pièces desséchées… en forme de sandwich (Three Dried Up Little Pieces… In Sandwich Form) (1979) is a triptych in which two fully composed pieces frame a structured improvisation. The central piece, the structured improvisation, is visually saturated with graphics. These, however, do not themselves serve a notational purpose per se. Rather, they set the tone of the piece.
The central focus of the rather chaotic scene is the old man in the rocking chair merrily smoking a pipe, unwittingly being threatened from all sides — by a steamroller from behind, an aristocratic woman from the right, and an accusing finger pointing at him from the left, as well as the ominous archway that at once traps him within the walls of the establishment, and shelters him from the flurry of activity going on outside. There is music embedded in the graphics and it takes a careful eye, as well as a lot of imagination, to navigate through the score.
One possibility would be to begin in the bottom left hand corner in the viola case, proceeding then to the archway where the viola part would alternate between the arch and tightrope sections like a high wire circus performer. The piano in the meantime would maintain the chord progression in the archway, arguably the harmonic “structure” holding the piece together. This would then lead diagonally from the top of the aristocratic woman’s hat in the passage in the far right-hand corner of the page, transitioning directly into the last piece of the set. The final piece, although fully composed, features some graphics towards the end illustrating a group of people on a leisurely stroll in the park on their way to “The garden of earthly delights.” In the audio excerpt here heard, the pianist is Jane Gormley and the violist, Ernest Kassian.