Morris Rosenzweig on his new piece, "....snip, snip....."

ver the time I have been in SLC, I have had an ongoing, very good relationship with NOVA, and have consistently enjoyed working with Jason Hardink no matter what the context.

NOVA asked me to write a work for their 30th season. It’s called reprise, and was commissioned to match the instrumentation of the Schubert “Trout” Quintet. NOVA made an impressive recording of it, which was released on the Albany label. 

....snip, snip..... was commissioned by NOVA for this, their 40th season.

I don’t entirely recall the conversation Jason and I had about the work initially, but do remember two things:

Because I’ve often been asked by various groups to write pieces that had the same instrumentation as well-known masterworks with “unusual” instrumentation (Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, Brahms’ Horn Trio, Bartok’s Sonata for 2 Pianos and Percussion, the aforementioned Schubert “Trout” Quintet, etc.,), that this piece would have its own unique scoring, and somehow, what came out of our conversation was an ensemble of clarinet, horn, piano, prepared piano, and string quartet. 

Then we talked about potential personnel, chatting about this and that player.

When the issue of the pianist came up, I noticed that Jason was silent; no replies to any suggestion.

I did a quick translation, Yankee into New Orleanian: He’s trying to tell you that he wants to play.

“Yes, and of course you on piano.”

Much laughter. OK, nice prank, let’s get on with it.

 It may perhaps strike some as odd that the commissioner was in on the choice of instrumentation. I’m very comfortable with that. It’s something like “you pick the fabric, we discuss a detail or two, and the rest is up to me.” 

As my bio notes, I descend from a long line of tailors, some of them everyday artisans, some real artists. I obviously hold the profession in high esteem, and pleasurably regularly recall the sensation of going to my uncle’s shop in 1960s New Orleans with its endlessly long tables and masses of cloth bolts, within the widest, completely natural, multi-cultural experience one might experience.

So, ....snip, snip.....refers to my working out, “tailoring” the material that is meant to unfold as a six-section, 15-minute narrative, which sometimes features the piano and sometimes has it do handwork in conjunction with the rest of the ensemble.

 A general guide to the six sections:

  1. A slow, lyrical introduction followed by segments of comic music that perhaps sound like what I would like to hear in a Loony Tunes production.
  2. Warmer, chatting music that ends with a quiet mechanistic screen made of simultaneous individual patterns.
  3. Builds motion by increasing insistent, overlapped short lines which invite chordal spikes which instigate jagged linear rebounds;
  4. A more lyrical Interlude;
  5. A Nocturne from a flatland intersected by waterways;
  6. A Two-Step in a newer mode. 

I want to thank my family, who dealt more than graciously with those rare occasions when I was overly involved with writing; of course Jason and NOVA for asking for this piece; Chamber Music America, who generously supported the project with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and the University of Utah for giving me a semester off to complete this work, and for lending me a piano to prepare and use for performance.

- Morris Rosenzweig

NOVA Chamber Music Society presents the world premiere of Morris Rosenzweig's ....snip, snip..... on Sunday, February 25. For tickets and more information, please click here.

This commission has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.