Meden Agan 4-6

I wrote the first 3 movements of Meden Agan in 2006 at the request of and dedicated to James Lisney, who performed them for the first time in the UK and the Netherlands in 2012. Since then I wrote another composition for piano solo at the request of Ralph van Raat called Liebesträume, which consists of 6 movements. After he gave two performances in the UK and in Amsterdam, I suggested in the programme notes that I could easily think of another batch of 3 movements for Meden Agan, making it two collections of six. James immediately took the bite and agreed to incorporate them in future performances.   The numbers were inspired by Debussy’s Images and Bach’s Partitas, both consisting of six compositions, albeit that each partita again is a collection of 6 or 7 dances. Anyway, the number 6 seems an attraction of sorts, not least as a factor of 12 and 24, which have their own pedigree in the history and practice of music.   As the titles of the first set of three are

  1. Rhetorica
  2. Poetica
  3. Erotica

it made a certain poetic sense to come up with another set of …icas, resulting in

  1. Metafysica
  2. Chromatica
  3. Esoterica

Esoterica was originally called Mathematica, but since I didn’t seem to be able to do the title as much justice as I intended, I changed it to Esoterica, with a reference to Fibonacci and Pisano whose work on the famous series (the mathematical limit of which culminates in the Golden Section) I wanted to honour with a challenge to wrestle music out of the numbers. Nothing new there! However, when I was still struggling on ‘Mathematica’ I made some sketches based on the Fibonacci series (mainly intervals and durations) and suddenly stumbled on a property, which seemed to be holding for a number of tests I performed. To clarify my findings I got in touch with a Fibonacci specialist[1] who was so kind as to point out that I had ‘discovered’ the Pisano Periods… Hence references to both number crunchers who instigated the design of a few modules that sounded rather ‘esoteric’. These relatively small fragments I linked together with transitional sections that are more loosely based on the Fibonacci series and seemed to fit in a mode I often use, marked in boxed digits. These were allowed to veer off more freely in directions they naturally seemed to lead into.

Chromatica is a more obviously musical choice and vigorously explores various ways in which chromatics capitalises on the 88 keys of the piano.

Metafysica finally is entirely based on transpositions of a mode consisting of the following intervals (in semitones): 1 2 3 1 2 3 1, which is vaguely Phrygian (but more ‘Gypsy’) with the 4th and 7th degree augmented. For notational purposes I chose its parallel major scale to set the key of each transposition. E.g. when the mode begins on E, the notation is in C, but with ‘a’ and ‘d’ sharpened:

E F G A-sharp B C D-sharp E

I am not sure if it always serves the pianist with an unambiguous reading of the music. It is a compromise and the alternative – no key, only accidentals – is not much clearer, especially when lots of black keys are involved. Time will tell…


[1] Dr Ron Knott, Department of Mathematics, University of Surrey.