René Damen - Chamber Music
 
String Quartet No. 1 "Kittens In An Apple Tree" (Op.14) - (Dec. 14, 2020 - May 3rd, 2022 - duration 11:23)
  

Notice: This is a digital rendering until a much needed live recording becomes available.
(Sound samples: Joshua Bell Violin and Vienna Symphonic Library's Violin, Viola and Cello)

  • I. Les minous n'ont pas peur du tout
  • II. La vie dans la paumière n'est pas compliquée (starts at 6:25)
  • III. Je me rapelle les premiers jours de mon avenir (not yet finished)
(First two movements; third movement not yet finished.)
Suite-For-Piano

Images from my childhood

For all 7-year olds in the world, big and small.

A photo taken in 1955 by my brother Ernie, was recently dug up from the family archives, evoking in me strong childhood memories. I was seven at the time and we had just moved into a big new house with a sprawling backyard and even our own piece of forest land. I remembered that old apple tree on the photo with the kittens, but I was especially reminded of the feeling of having just started my new life in my own little paradise. Capturing that feeling in music is next to impossible, but I gave it a try.

The first movement reflects the fearlessness of these unsuspecting, simple creatures, and I counted myself amongst them. I named it "Les minous n'ont pas peur du tout" ("The kittens are not scared at all"). The second part with its simple theme, reminiscent of a nursery song, evokes the naivety and the akwardness of these vulnerable softballs of fur, not aware of any peril, though they could fall from the tree at any moment. I titled it, ironically, "La vie dans la pommière n'est pas compliquée", ("Life in the apple tree is not complicated"). The third movement will be some kind of a brew of feelings about my awakening as a child, under the summarily title "Je me rapelle les premiers jours de mon future", ("I remember the first days of my future.") I am still working on it. Enjoy!

"Ennio Duet" For Violin & Viola No. 1 (Op.13) - (August 8 - August 28, 2020 - duration 8:12)
  

Notice: This is a digital rendering until a live recording becomes available.
(Sound samples: Joshua Bell Violin and Vienna Symphonic Library's Viola)

The tribute to Ennio Morricone starts around 5:50
Suite-For-Piano

This duet starts out with a classic theme in B-flat minor, - after about two minutes transitioning into the main segment: a slightly atonal and a mostly dissonant back-and-forth between the two players followed by a brief variation on the opening theme leading up to the Ennio Morricone tribute starting at around 5:50 minutes.

The beloved Italian composer Ennio Morricone wrote over 400 film scores in a vast variety of styles in addition to 100+ classical works. Most impressive and memorable for me as a young man were the soundtracks for the so-called "spaghetti-westerns" evoking so effectively and suspenseful the loneliness of the desert.

Morricone passed away July 7, 2020 and I listened to a few of his most famous compositions once again with great joy!

Suite for Piano No. 1 (Op.12) - (May 25 - June 29, 2020 - duration 18:57)
This suite for piano is a mix of harmonic and dissonant tonal music, using juxtaposing styles, and is in part inspired by Prokofiev, Bartok, Bach and, on a subconscious level, by sixties pop-music, especially the song-like phrases, as well as by subtle jazz rhythms. In the background of the third movement one could recognize perhaps, a reflection of my admiration for Eric Satie’s minimalist style albeit here more methodical like Bach. The 5th movement, the finale, is a lighthearted scherzo kind of thing. The digital piano is the Ant. Petrof 225 by Modartt. Enjoy!

  • I. Saut de Chat
  • II. Gargouillade (starts at 4:06)
  • III. Pendulum (starts at 7:44)
  • IV. Pirouette (starts at 11:19)
  • V. Cabriole (starts at 13:15)
  • VI. Grand Jeté (starts at 17:05)
Suite-For-Piano

The five movements, except for the 3rd, are named after ballet steps and moves recognizing the original idea behind suites as a series of danceable tunes. Actually, especially the 5th movement would be suited for a ballet, I believe. (Choreographers: contact me if you agree.)

"Pendulum" is a methodically constructed piece based on a repeated baseline consisting of 19 quarter notes, on the beat of a grandfather clock, evolving through five right-hand variations, introducing syncopation and eighth notes along the way, then morphing into a classical sonata passage, including sixteenth notes, and ending in a repeat of earlier dissonant chords.

La Chanson de l'Amour Fol - Duet for Piano & Oboe in 3 movements (Op.11) - (2019 - duration 10:04)

 

Inspired by Jacques Brels's "La Chanson Des Vieux Amants"
Recorded at the Corthell Hall, USM School of Music, November 26, 2019 (Thank you, Lori!)
Performers: Josie DiPhilippo, Piano and Aaron Emerson, Oboe

Intrigued by the Flemish / French singer Jacques Brel ever since I was 15, by his personality, his raw and driven performance style and the lyrics to his chansons, one song stands out for me in particular: La Chanson Des Vieux Amants. It kept me spellbound for decades, as I attempted to decipher the meaning behind its gripping lyrics.

For this duet, specifically written for the gifted oboist Aaron Emerson, I borrowed three significant quotes from the song as my inspiration for, and the interpretation of the subject matter as I finally came to see it. The quotes serve as the titles of the movements.

René

  • I. Chambre Sans Berceau
  • II. Éclats Des Vieilles Tempêtes (starts at 3:10)
  • III. Je t'aime Encore, Tu Sais, Je t'aime (starts at 6:48)

WATCH LIVE PERFORMANCE ON YouTube.

La Chanson Picture 1

I. Chambre Sans Berceau (Room without crib)

The relationship between two people-in-love is challenged and tested, causing anguish and friction, when their marriage remains childless. Blame and guilt slowly drives a wedge between them, despite attempts to hang on to their committed love.
La Chanson Picture 1

II. Éclats Des Vieilles Tempêtes (Shards of old storms)

After twenty years the echos of raging old storms are still audible and shards of broken dreams still visible in the corners of that room. But every now and then, when the taste for fighting is lost, a clear and hopeful tune can be heard ringing throughout the house.
La Chanson Picture 1

III. Je t'aime Encore, Tu Sais, Je t'aime (I still love you, you know, I love you)

Despite decades of resentment, neglect and infidelities, in the end the love survives; though un-passionate and non-exuberant, as a given it persists, pure and simple, as on the beat of a slow, never-ending three-step dance between two kindred souls.

Morning-Midday-Night, A Tryptich For Solos - (Fall 2018 - duration 10:07)

  • I. English Horn Solo
  • II. Flugelhorn Solo (starts at 3:22)
  • III. Alto Sax Solo (starts at 7:00)
Tryptich For Solos (Image)
I. Morning (for English Horn): Five minutes of serenity - Daybreak - Clarion call - Wake up! - Pace picks up - Tired! Already? - Get up. You’re late! - Good morning?! - Arguing ritual - Coffee. Please!!
Tryptich For Solos (Image)
II. Midday (for Flugelhorn): Wake-up coffee - Happy commute - “Singing In The Rain” (quote) - “An American In Paris” (quote) - Siren / Traffic - Office work - 5 O’clock slump - Introspection of Life - Happy Hour turns sour.
Tryptich For Solos (Image)
III. Night (for Alto Sax): Relaxation - Reflection - He sa(i)d, she sa(i)d (Bar Talk) - One more? - Home now! - Really sleepy.

 

  • Download the full score
    (A license is required for performance of any or all three pieces. Contact Damen Digital.)

 
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