24 Sketches, Op. 12July 8, 2010 by: Simon
(Audio clips are available in the table near the bottom of this page.)
The 24 Sketches, Op. 12 (formerly 24 Impromptus) started as a composition exercise for myself. Like a cycle of preludes, there is one sketch for each key (C Major, c minor, G Major, g minor, etc.). Musically, each sketch is of a radically different character; some are light and fun, others are serious and brooding, while a few are simply absurd. They are very short, averaging one page apiece, each lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. As a full work, the entire set takes approximately 20 minutes to perform.
Space-age composing machine
This piece began as a composition exercise for myself. The plan was to write every day for one half hour, just to keep myself “in shape.” So, every morning, I grabbed an egg timer and a blank piece of sheet music, sat down at my coffee table, and got to work. The idea was to stretch my skills by relying on my inner ear, without the aid of an instrument or computer. Also, because there was a time a limit, there was no room for second-guessing what I’d written.
Sometimes I cheated (the shame will haunt me forever). Sometimes, the timer went off while in the middle of an interesting idea, so I wrote on a few more minutes to finish things out. When finished, I’d run to the piano and see if the music “worked” while the ink (or graphite) was still fresh on the page. Of course, I had to make a few corrections and tweak little things that almost worked.
Once I was satisfied, it usually took two or three hours to enter everything into Finale on the computer, although it was only one half hour to write by hand. Let that be a lesson to you composition students out there! Once I got the process down, I was writing two or three sketches a day. With breaks, the entire work took about one month to complete.
There’s too much music to describe in full, so here are some brief notes about each sketch:
|Number / Key||Tempo||Notes|
|No. 1 in C Major||Allegro Scherzando||Eyebrow-raising quirks in a light and Mozart-esque piece.
|No. 2 in c minor||Adagio||A very slow and sentimental waltz lost in thought.|
|No. 3 in G Major||Maestoso||Majestic march with a steadily rising and drum-like bass line.|
|No. 4 in g minor||Presto||A whirlwind of nonsense.
|No. 5 in D Major||Moderato||A light aria over a noodling harp.|
|No. 6 in d minor||Grave||Baroque-style stern and serious harpsichord music.|
|No. 7 in A Major||Allegro||A lively and colorful dance, spinning up and winding down.|
|No. 8 in a minor||Largo Misterioso||Creepy, sparse, mysterious music to keep you up at night.
|No. 9 in E Major||Andante||A pleasant lullaby.|
|No. 10 in e minor||Andantino||Cello lines in the phrygian mode beneath a flowing ostinato.|
|No. 11 in B Major||Allegretto||A wacky Mazurka.|
|No. 12 in b minor||Lento, Tranquillo Assai||Tranquil, pleasant melodies similar to a Satie Gymnopedie.
|No. 13 in G♭ Major||Moderato con Moto||Colorful chords wander about aimlessly.
|No. 14 in f♯ minor||Allegro non Troppo
|A passionate, fiery waltz.
|No. 15 in D♭ Major||Languido||Complex rhythms (3 against 5) dance around one another.|
|No. 16 in c♯ minor||Prestissimo||A lively tarantella in 9/8.|
|No. 17 in A♭ Major||Andantino||A silly, tiny three-voice fugue.|
|No. 18 in g♯ minor||Andante||A brooding and reflective passacaglia.|
|No. 19 in E♭ Major||Aria Con Variazioni||Themes and variations on a classical theme.|
|No. 20 in e♭ minor||Moderato Misterioso||Flowing colors with poisonous harmonies.|
|No. 21 in B♭ Major||Blues||Some bluesy noodling around.
|No. 22 in b♭ minor||Allegro Pesante||A fierce, powerful march.|
|No. 23 in F Major||Adagio Amoroso||A lovely aria with lovelorn harmonies.|
|No. 24 in f minor||Grave Funebre||The cycle ends with a gloomy funeral march.|