7 words: the beginning of a new piece


“Brevity is the soul of wit.” Hamlet


Brevity is an idea that I have had for few months. It will be a collection of short pieces for voice and piano based on seven words:








The piece will attempt to explore the unexpected realities of sound that happen when words are pronounced, spoken, sung. The tiny little openings created by breath, the cracks between vowels and consonants and the magical power of the pure sound of speech beyond semantics.

Today we had a marvelous, productive, concentrated and creative recording session with the wonderful Tony Arnold.

I have done many recordings with actors, singers and instrumental players but today’s recording was something special. What Miss Arnold did was record those seven words or partial sounds based on them for an hour and a half, just to give me enough source material for my new composition. She is an extremely generous performer and I consider myself very lucky that we will be working together.

Now I have to listen, choose, edit, rearrange and structure each of the seven pieces, which will become the Brevity cycle for piano,  voice and (maybe) video. In other words, the piece is now in my own hands and that is both exciting and a little scary. Fortunately, I have never let such worries bother me or paralyze me, which is leaving me with just the excitement.

My intention is, for a first time, to “document” the process of creating a piece in this blog.

That means that if you are interested in the process of creation, you should subscribe to the blog and make sure you don’t miss anything.

This is what we started with:

I. Hope

1. Various reiterations of “H”; breathing in and out – short, medium and long;

2. “O” – limited scale with different durations; various glissandos; the lowest possible “O” sound; Throat and mouth trill on “O”. Vocalizing on “O”, see notation, against

3. “P” as a percussive sound; in combination with “O” – as in “Ope”;

II. Push

1. Working more as a whole word, prolonging the “U” (Ooh) sound and the “sh” sound.

2. Making chord out of those sounds (see notation).

III. Clock

1. Juxtaposing short and long sounds; long sounds with “Cloooock”, short (maybe) with variations of the word: click, clack, even some “made up” words mimicking the sound of “clock”.

IV. Tree

1. “Tree” with a very long “ee” vocal, almost like a Gregorian chant, simple, one line melody;

2. Using the “ee” sound and jumping intervals (pairs of notes) – from high to mid-range, from high to low range; with and without a glissando.

3. Some harmonic seconds with “ee” – both major and minor seconds; throughout the whole range

V. Fake

1. Let’s explore laughter on this one;

2. Various “F” and “K” sounds for percussive/rhythmic purposes;

VI. Spin

1. Maybe an exploration of different vibrato techniques on the vowel, even greatly exaggerated ones at different notes in the range, including some low ones?

2. Various divisions of the word – “S”, “S-P”, “In”,“Innn”, “pin”, “pinnn” etc.

VII. Back

1. We will try to play on the word as much as possible here – “back” as a return, “back” as part of the body (may be obscuring the mouth with a hand or helping with hand by moving lower lip – “Ba-ba-ba” etc.

2. Also some pure consonants: “B”, including just with air; “K”, including a longer sound combining “K” and “H” – “Kh-h-h”;


 I did prepare some notated parts as well. They were mostly conceived as sketches but we used them and recorded them straightforward as singing parts. Here they are:
This is quite a beginning. It is also a kind of vague beginning – you wouldn’t know how the music will sound only by looking at these starting points. For me this is part of the fascination with a new way of working. It is quite free and uninhibited. You could steer the materials in many different directions and each one could be viable and rewarding.
The first ever music teacher in my life said to my parents in our first ever meeting:
“Let’s sign him up for piano lessons – you never know in which hat the proverbial rabbit is hiding”