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The Final Digits of PI
The Final Digits of PI (2009)
for viola & piano
commissioned by The Two Composers (Mark Berger & Ketty Nez)
duration: 10 minutes 15 seconds
The Last Digits of PI is a virtuoso romp in three movements. It is organized around three contrasting musical ideas which are presented at the outset: a bold melodic line (in unison initially) with an active contrapuntal accompaniment, a pair of sustained piano chords in the low register with a lyrical viola line atop, and a quiet motive consisting of staccato chords with an identifying grace note figure. The first movement is expository, and all of the musical materials are presented in quick succession and in stark contrast. Once all of the ideas are introduced rather than developing in more traditional ways, the musical ideas are reintroduced through cross-cutting in a manner analogous to cinematic montage. The drama of the piece lies in the juxtaposition of subtly altered (but still familiar) musical materials. The second movement is marked “with quiet poise and dignity” and develops the staccato figure adding a contemplative viola line in its high register. The piece seems to end in the third movement with some rapid-fire combinations of the contrapuntal theme and a boisterous race to the finish—but is interrupted abruptly and ends on a more introspective note. The Last Digits of PI is written for, and with thanks to The Two Composers, Mark Berger and Ketty Nez.