Theme: The final translation of the quote overlays the theme for several reasons:
- it brings the two ideas together, as well as creates a disassociation because the words are not actually being sung or spoken with the rhythm of the melody
- the idea of putting some derivation of the composer’s words over a “Song Without Words” sets up a nice contradiction
- the words themselves call out for it, “I think it’s some words from my music – seviyorsun extralimital”
Variation 1 sticks very close to the theme, the difference being the rhythm of the melody; a lilting or skipping 2 note figure, not a particularly vocal treatment, the music having cast off the necessity to conform to words.
Variation 2 continues to stick close to the original, but has now transformed into a waltz.
Variation 3 could be viewed as the B section of the waltz. Here the ideas of the first 2 variations come together, the lilting figure is shortened to simple grace notes and the melody is gone. The ascending bass line of the theme is now the focus.
Variation 4 reverts to a pure vocal technique, and is the first of the variations to be interpreted through the voice of another composer, J.S. Bach. Since Mendelssohn was responsible for reviving interest in Bach’s music, it seemed a fitting variation. This, along with variations 5 and 6, hints at a baroque suite.
Variation 5 was inspired by the spider. Spider, as a power animal or totem, brings the gift of creativity. She is also said to be the keeper of the primordial alphabet. In addition, because the spider’s body is shaped like the number 8 and it has 8 legs, it is associated with infinity and the infinite possibilities of creation. A quick search under shamanism and spider will tell you much more about this particular animal.
Technically, this variation is a further development of the turn motive in the right hand in groups of 5 16th notes over an arpeggiation of the harmonic progression in the left hand eighth note triplets: 5+3=8. The melody spins out from beginning to end much in the same way a spider would spin her thread of silk.
Variation 6 imitates a majestic French overture. Here the theme is heavily ornamented.
Variation 7 is a direct contrast to the previous variation. It features a more animated development of the turn ornament from the theme and concludes with a little musical cliché.
Variation 8 returns to a vocal treatment of the melody, this time appearing in the bass. The harmonic progression has been altered as well: instead of treating each note of the descending diatonic scale as a separate harmony, it has been remade as a series of suspended 4ths resolving. The inspiration for this particular variation is the opening of a rock ballade. If it were interpreted that way, one could hear the drums entering on measure 13 and bass on measure 14.
Variation 9 is marked Presto and is almost a prelude with block chords defining the melody.
Variation 10, the ragtime variation, represents the theme interpreted through the voice of Scott Joplin, and is important to the overall piece for a couple of reasons. First, when I began studying music, ragtime was undergoing a major revival. It was everywhere. There was a documentary on Scott Joplin and his opera Treemonisha was rediscovered, so, it takes me back to the time when I first began to use music instead of words to express myself.
The second reason is a bit more complicated, and deals with another person besides Scott Joplin, who was instrumental to ragtime’s popularity; Ernest Hogan, the first African American to produce and star in a Broadway show. It is interesting to note that one of his songs, which helped bring ragtime rhythms to the U.S., was also responsible for creating a long since forgotten, horrible genre of songs called “coon songs” which were incredibly racist. Mr. Hogan, in his later years felt pride for the former while regretting the latter. So, this variation, in a sense, represents the triumph of music over words. It is interesting to note that Satie was inspired by, and had a love of ragtime, since:
Variation 11 is in the style of Satie.
Variation 12 imagines the theme heard through the voice of Chopin, specifically the Op.25 No. 12 Etude. This piece also marks the midpoint of the variations.
Variation 13 marks the beginning of the second half of the variations and is the point at which the theme starts to go through more radical transformations. In this variation, the bass line and the melody begin to pull apart and are each treated as separate ideas playing off each other.
Variation 14 is the first time we hear the theme in the minor. This is almost a scherzo.
One of the wonderful things about recording a piece is how collaborative the process is. I was lucky to be working with such a great artist as Karolina. Originally I had imagined this piece at a much faster tempo, to the point where the ending becomes almost maniacal. Karolina stated that she heard it differently and started playing her tempo. The piece suddenly revealed a side of itself that I never knew existed. It took on this magical quality that we all immediately fell in love with, and that is what you hear on the recording.
Variation 15 is again in minor and this time the theme is heard as a funeral march. The bass line from the theme is the inspiration here.
Variation 16 marks another turning point in the piece, literally: here the theme is inverted.
Variation 17 continues the inverted theme, placing the melody over flowing 16th notes. This time, however, it is much more tranquil than the previous variation.
Variation 18 is steeped in nostalgia and uses the same inverted melody, only in the minor.
Variation 19 is really an extension of the previous variation. If this were a scene from a movie, and the previous variation evoked a memory from long ago, this variation would represent the character lost in the dream, dancing.
Variation 20 stands in stark contrast to the previous 2 variations. It is fast and full of fury and passion.
Variation 21 turns the theme right side up again, but this time it is deconstructed. The theme is built on the interval of 4ths and 5ths. The opening melody of the theme descends a 4th then up an octave then down a 4th again. The climax of the original theme features the interval of the 5th g# to c#. In constructing this variation I wanted to highlight both intervals. The bass line features clusters or chords built in 5ths, while the treble features clusters built on 4ths. The first couple of notes of the bass line are played, then the first couple of the melody in the treble. The piece imagines the theme through the voice of Debussy.
Variation 22 is one of the longer variations, and treats the theme in a minimalist, Philip Glass style. The simpler harmonies form a contrast to the previous variation. The rhythm is constant eighth notes, first in groupings of 2 then three and finally back to two. Just like the previous variation, the bass line plays a couple of its notes then the melody sounds a couple of notes.
Variation 23 is another deconstruction of the melody, exclusively the right hand part of the theme. The beginning and ending notes of the first 2 phrases are played as one phrase, twice, then, the notes that were left out play a cascading run. The 2 16th notes that were played with the right hand in the original theme are then formed into rolled chords.
Variation 24 a jazz variation, is again based on the inversion of the melody, but free and improvisatory. The meter changes multiple times, and there is no specific developmental technique, (deconstruction, development of a specific motif, etc.).