Canon for Three

three pianos (1996)

Duration: ca. 8 minutes

Canon for Three is a work for three pianos.It can also be performed in a version for piano and two vibraphones. Starting in the early 1990s, I wrote several pieces which employ contrapuntal techniques such as canons and mirror structures (or musical palindromes). Although such

techniques are normally associated with melodic material, in these pieces I applied them instead to the kind of music I was writing at the time, music that was

generally harmonic, or vertical in its conception (e.g., Four Quiet Preludes). Starting with the piece House of Mirrors (1993) for two pianos (written in the form

of a mirror canon), I wrote several more pieces based on this idea. Of these, Canon for Three comes closest to using the approach of a traditional musical canon

— two or more voices imitating each other intervallically, at different time gaps. In Canon for Three, the three performers play exactly the same pitch material, mostly chords or single notes. However, here, the three voices of the canon follow each other in a more fluid and flexible way than in a traditional canon, causing the musical material to overlap and form pointillistic clusters of sound. As in a traditional canon, the music for the individual players is strictly notated. However, it differs from a traditional canon in that the metrical organization of the pitch material varies in each part, and

the performers are instructed to play independently throughout the piece. Occasionally, places are indicated where the performers can align with each other (if they desire). This independence results in a flexible vertical alignment of the three parts, and (assuming all of the players have a good sense of time) each performance is similar, but never exactly the same.