[Ben Phelps looks at a crane]
works > chamber music- standard > Point • Counterpoint

Point • Counterpoint

for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano   

2004. Written for and premiered by the Verderh Trio. 18 minutes.

Point • Counterpoint represents a certain formal codification of a compositional technique I have been employing off an on in my music for several years. To state simply, the idea is to employ a simple ostinato, here almost exclusively in the piano, and then to play rhapsodic melodies on top of it. In this piece the technique is carried out quite strictly- a simple rocking chord progression continues for almost the entire piece (though it does frequently modulate). When dictated by the music, the ostinato passes through a new “gate,” to use the minimalist’s term, in which the key, rhythm or tempo is changed but not the fundamental chord progression. Through the use of these gates, a fairly straightforward form is constructed: there is an introduction, a theme, a middle section which grows to a climax, followed by a remorseful denouement, which is really a recapitulation of all the themes introduced in the piece.

That said, in my mind the true “point” of the piece isn’t this neo-minimalist underpinning, but the melodic and contrapuntal lines formed on top of it by the three instruments in the ensemble. I leave it to you to create your own pun.