“Inverse Sequences” (2012), for Piano

I. Toward C

II. Separate Units

III. Animated Stagnation

“Inverse Sequences” Score Sample

This piece explores the idea of having two processes occurring simultaneously, but also inversely. This is accomplished by using two simple number sequences (4-3-2-1 and 5-6-7-8) that are mapped to various musical elements.

In the first movement, “Toward C,” the sequences are primarily explored through intervals (all major or perfect). The right hand begins with only fourths, then thirds, etc., while the left hand begins with fifths and so on. The different interval combinations give each section a different character, with the penultimate being the darkest (7ths and 2nds). The final section then brightens up, since once the two sequences play themselves out, they meet on the pitch C, and round out the movement with a large crescendo to the end.

The second movement, “Separate Units,” alternates between music and silence. The opening phrase is quite short, followed by a long rest. As the movement progresses, the  phrases become longer and longer, while the rests become shorter and shorter–inversely. By the middle of the piece, the positions have been reversed. Then the movement winds to a close by reversing the process. Flat dynamics throughout force a restrained contemplative mood.

In the raucous third movement, “Animated Stagnation,” the number sequences are mapped to major triads on the scale degrees of the C Major scale–the chords move down from F Major in the left hand, and up from G Major in the right hand, to meet at C Major. The number sequences also pervade the off-kilter metrical groupings throughout, as well as control the conspicuous repetitions that occur.

Roger Sheu, piano
Premiere: May 2, 2012 – Lyman Hall, Pomona College