Seven Memorials
for piano

Stephen Andrew Taylor, 2002-2003

1. Fountain (pdf mp3)

Duration 32 minutes

Premiere: 25 October 2004,
Los Angeles
Gloria Cheng, piano.

Commissioned by Gloria Cheng
and Piano Spheres

Concert review, LA Times, 10/28/04

2. Glacier (pdf mp3)
3. Plateau (pdf mp3)
4. Baobab (pdf mp3)
5. Cloud Forest (pdf mp3)
6. Black Smoker (pdf mp3)
7. Satellite (pdf mp3)

Program Note

Seven Memorials is inspired by a project of the artist Maya Lin, to build a “last memorial” dedicated to the extinction of species on our planet. Lin imagines this project having seven different sites:

Site 1 Yellowstone, the first national park
Site 2 Antarctica, the first international park
Site 3 Tibet, gateway to the sky
Site 4 Africa, the last great plains
Site 5 The Amazon, forest of the world
Site 6 The ocean floor
Site 7 Satellite link—watching all sites, monitoring the planet

The scope and ambition of this idea struck me immediately, but I didn’t think of making a piece of music around it until I was studying Olivier Messiaen’s two-hour cycle for piano, Vingt Regards sur l’enfant-Jésus, written in 1944. It occurred to me that Maya Lin’s memorial project could be portrayed as a series of a pieces, “gazes upon the earth” (this is how I envision the last movement, “Satellite”).
Titles for the individual movements come from the need to narrow the subject—although each place is so vast that one could write a whole two hours about any of them, I wanted to keep the entire length around a half-hour. Thus, the first movement becomes a single geyser instead of the entire Yellowstone; a glacier represents all of Antarctica; and so on. A black smoker—the sixth movement—is an underwater volcanic vent, spewing sulfur and lava out of the ocean floor. In many ways this movement, featuring prepared piano strings, is a sort of “rhyme” to the first movement’s volcanic geyser.
Seven Memorials is dedicated in friendship and admiration to the pianist Gloria Cheng, for whom it was written.

Performer’s note

The unusual time signatures in some movements—5/12, 6/14, 7/20, etc.—are extensions of tuplet rhythms, based on a whole note’s duration. For example, a 4/4 bar full of 8th-note triplets would consist of 12 notes; this bar could also be thought of as 12/12 (just like a bar with eight 8th notes can be called 8/8). The time signature 5/12, then, consists of 5 “triplets”—in other words, 1 + 2/3 beats. Similarly, 6/14 means 6 “septuplets,” nearly (but not quite) half as long as a 4/4 bar.
The appropriate tuplet number appears in parentheses for these unusual time signatures, to show the intended speed of the notes.
Between movements 5 and 6 the pianist must mute some of the strings (indicated on p. 39) with four short strips of Blu-Tac (or equivalent). To place the Blu-Tac on the strings as efficiently and unobtrusively as possible, the pianist should have the strips ready to go, perhaps resting on the pinblock, before the performance. The Blu-Tac must be removed after the sixth movement.

Individual movements may be played separately if desired.

Last updated September 5, 2009 by Stephen Andrew Taylor,