Adagio Cantabile
for Oboe and Guitar

Adagio Cantabile (2016) is a piece for oboe and guitar that I wrte for Kristin Leitterman and Jordan Dodson. Take a listen to the recording we made:

You can also take a look at the score here.

The work takes its name from the second movement of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata, Op. 13. In fact, the material for both parts was originally derived from the melody and counterpoint of that movement's main theme, after which it was freely and intuitively shaped. The process of derivation was kind of convoluted, but suffice it to say that, while the world of this piece owes its existence to the Beethoven, few are likely to hear the connection unless it is explicitly pointed out.

(For those who will find the obscure mechanics of my compositional practice interesting, the process is described in some detail in my paper on the topic here. Essentially, the derivation was based on a Fourier decomposition of the counterpoint using my Spectral Musical Contour Explorer. The oboe part is based on the melody, while the guitar part derives from the motion of the lower voices.)

Perhaps of more interest than the means of the derivation is the personal background behind it: The second movement of the Pathetique was one of my grandmother's favorite pieces. She used to play it on the piano, and during the last several years of her life, I would play it for her every time I visited. Toward the end, she increasingly suffered from dementia, and yet hearing this piece would inevitably bring her to life. I can still remember how she would close her eyes as she listened, moving her fingers in mid-air. After I finished, she would simply say: “More.”

My grandmother was always a great source of encouragement for me and for my music, and she – along with her love of the Beethoven Sonatas – is a large part of why I became a composer. This piece is dedicated to her memory.