Parmenter Piano Pieces – Part 1

Phaedrus is proud to present a group of piano pieces under the collective name “Sonnets, Five Songs for Piano” written by Matthew Parmenter and performed by Adriana Plaza Engelke. In this edition we include “Prelude”, “Chime Song” and “Chorale and Melody”. The suite will be completed in the Spring edition with “Caverns” and “Night Song” plus a piece called “Whole Tones” that will be easily recognized by those acquainted with Parmenter’s solo albums.

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L’Etoile – The Star

“The Star” is one of the most profound spiritual arcanum in the Tarot. It represents the soul’s initiation which follows “The Tower” (stripping away of all the circumstances, thoughts and emotions that imprison our true self).

The mood of this piece presents an ethereal sonic landscape. Following an initial presentation of the “Tarot” main theme, conflicting melodies give way to a long meditative melody, that will also be present in two other arcana closely related to “The Star”: “The Chariot” and “Justice”.

This is an excerpt:

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This piece is inspired in the tradition of the romantic lieder of the 19th century, but with a little dose of impressionism.

Its language is totally latter part of the 19th century, but I have incorporated electric bass, synthesizers and electronic effects to create a piece more in line with contemporary aesthetics. Another important change is that, instead of a classical lyric soprano, I have opted for the warm, natural and beautiful voice of Natali Castillo.

Thanks to my wife, the poet Nathalye Engelke Santos, for her wonderful lyrics.

Check out this excerpt:

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L’Empereur – The Emperor

This arcanum as a Universal archetype represents a masculine force, its nature is expansive and dynamic. Fire as vital energy. The physical and mathematical order that rules the Universe and the inexorability of its laws.

The vitality of this arcanum is wonderfully expressed by the intense and rich sound of Miguel Rosell at the cello. The Tarot leitmotif is expanded, and new themes are introduced, that will be used in the second group or “Suite” within the Tarot: “The Emperor”, “The Chariot” and “Death”.

Check out this excerpt:

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La Force – The Strength

This arcanum represents the four energy principles known as the tetrapolar magnet and its control over them – the spirit as a power that controls the mind, the mind as a power that controls the energy, and the energy controlling and acting over matter.

As part of this long-term project to put music to all 22 major arcana, I’ve been learning more about this intriguing world of the Tarot. It turns out that some arcana are more closely related to each other than the rest. This, from a musical point of view, is fantastic because it allows me to use common motifs to create “musical subgroups or suites” where these related arcana are bundled.

My plan is for all the pieces to share at least one motive – let’s call it the “Tarot” leitmotif (I wonder if some of you have detected it already) and then use other motives to create these groups.

It turns out that “The Strength” is closely related to “The Magician” and “The High Priestess”. Therefore, we can regard this group as the first “Suite” within the Tarot project. Since the Fool presents the “Tarot” leitmotif, all 4 pieces written so far are thematically related.

“The Strength” features the amazing César G. Forero (Kotebel) on guitars.

Check out the excerpt:

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La Papesse (The High Priestess)

This arcanum represents the Great Cosmic Mother – the vital force of the Universe. It also represents the unconscious mind, the intuition, the inner self.

This chamber piece is a tribute to composers that I admire – Messiaen, Emerson, Ginastera, Poulenc. It builds and expands the motifs presented in the previous two arcana: “The Fool” and “The Magician”.

Check out the excerpt:

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Le Bateleur (The Magician)

The Magician, as a universal arcanum, represents who knows and dominates the four principal energies (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) that interact during the creation, conservation and transformation of the Universe. He represents the power of reason, science, alchemists – he knows the secret of how to interact with he creative force of the cosmic mind.

The music was developed, and closely follows, this short story:

Imagine The Fool, carelessly wandering and, as usual, enjoying everything that he encounters [pay attention to the music motif used to relate “The Fool” and “The Magician”]. Suddenly, he feels the urge to create. He unpacks his bag and, for the first time, looks as his belongings as tools; as means to dominate forces for a specific purpose. He wants to understand the universe. For the first time, he understands the power of reason. He moves away from […]

Listen to an extract:

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Triptych – Dusk

With this publication, the Triptych is finally complete. It features the wide palette of sounds of guest musician José Luis Espejo at the clarinet. In futures publications I may include an analysis of the Triptych to show how the different themes and motifs have been used across the three pieces. There is a lot of that going on, so I invite you to listen and discover the numerous developments.

Here’s an excerpt:

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Le Mat (The Fool)

This is the first of the 22 Tarot arcana that I intend to put music to. Although its name suggests the card is representing foolishness or craziness, the meaning is much more profound. This arcana represents freedom. The Spirit in pure state, not bound by rules or conventionalisms. So, the arcane represents well attributes like originality, genius, eccentricity. To walk away from convencional rules and look for more transcendental values.

The free nature of the arcana is represented in the music by improvisatory passages wonderfully executed by Omar Acosta (flute) and César G. Forero (electric guitar). Since the arcana also represents eccentricity, there is a bit of craziness at the beginning and ending of the piece. Also, the improvisatory sections are nested by more reflexive passages, based on non improvised music. These passages at the beginning and end of the piece represent the fact that “The Fool” is one of the most spiritual cards in the Tarot.

Check out the excerpt:

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