PPD Day 25: Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment to Sparkle Motion

Today's piece is dedicated to my sister-in-law, Jennifer Laptik. She is awesome. She loves all things pink and sparkly - if we ask her what she'd like for any upcoming gift-giving occasion, she invariably says that pink and sparkly things are always welcome. Which got me thinking about how I might manage to pull off a pink and sparkly piece - especially when my own natural inclinations lean neither pink nor particularly sparkly. And then, through the miracle of free-association, I remembered a couple of things.

The first thing was my favorite line from the movie Donnie Darko. The juxtaposition of a little girls' dance team against the surreal darkness of the rest of the film is odd enough; Kitty Farmer's accusation, "Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!" puts the whole thing over the top.


The second thing was an essay by Sarah Vowell in which she wants to look more intimidating and seeks out "goth lessons". When pressed to come up with a goth nickname, Vowell chooses "Becky" - and is praised for understanding "the pink of goth" (The full essay is hilarious - worth a read!)

So - I realize this whole thing is a little out there, and I may be sharing more of my quirky thought process than you wanted to know...but, long story short, my solution to the challenge of writing a pink and sparkly piece was to write a little bit of pink-goth-sparkle-motion.

Download Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment to Sparkle Motion.

PPD Day 24: Phoenix Rising

So, yesterday I hit up social media to ask for some creative prompts. After 23 completed pieces, I was hitting a wall of sorts - continual output without a proportional amount of input was making me feel a little depleted. I knew going in that this was bound to happen at some point - and honestly, I'm kind of proud that it didn't happen to a larger extent sooner.

My friends came through - as friends often will if you swallow your pride enough to ask.

Today's piece, Phoenix Rising take dual inspiration from my friends Ellen Rosewall and Paula Ganyard. Ellen made several conceptual suggestions, and "phoenix rising" jumped out at me right away. I've been a Phoenix twice - first as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and currently on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. I prefer my mascots to be aspirational as opposed to violent, so this suits me pretty well.

Not long after Ellen posted her suggestion, Paula posted a description that I immediately thought could work with the idea of a rising phoenix. Today's Paula's birthday (woo-hoo!) and she wrote, "since 9/24 is all about me you should use me as inspiration. Keep it short, let it start quiet, but then gets a bit angry, and ends on light melody."

From there, the piece almost wrote itself. Thank you, friends!

Download Phoenix Rising.

Day 22: Fours

I had no idea what I was going to do today.

Yesterday got away from me a little - writing time I thought I'd have during the day got eaten up by some other things, so I finished the piece pretty late. I was too tired to think past getting that piece posted, so I didn't think about today's piece at all, really...except to think that maybe I'd do something with intervals of a fourth.

I got up, taught a class, cranked out some grading...and as I checked items off my list I almost wished I had more items on it...because if I could stay a little busier with other things a little longer, I wouldn't have to write the piece before I had a "real" idea.

But the daily deadline looms large, so I got up from my desk, and started playing fourths on the piano. And, whaddya know, I had a piece in roughly an hour and a half. For having no idea what the piece was going to be, I kind of like what happened here.

Download Fours

PPD 21: Underwater Prelude

Today's piece is sponsored by and dedicated to Holly Roadfeldt. She's one of the two pianists who will premiering the full set of Piano Per Diem pieces in November. When she asked if I would do her dedicated piece on her birthday (which, yes, is today!) I was thrilled to oblige.

Holly has been engaged with a fascinating Preludes Project over the past couple of years. She has been pairing the preludes of Bach, Rachmaninoff, Debussy and Chopin with newly commissioned works from contemporary composers; the juxtaposition of standard rep with new ideas has, in Holly's words, caused audiences "to listen to their favorites with more wonder and more inquiry." So, as I thought about writing for Holly, I thought about bringing that juxtaposition even closer together.

Underwater Prelude uses Chopin's E Minor Prelude, Op. 28. No. 4 as a starting point and framework - but over time, the material is manipulated and distorted. The familiar piece becomes less and less familiar without entirely leaving behind the structure and logic of the original. 

Download Underwater Prelude