Sean William Calhoun | Composer and pianist

Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble (2019) – 18'

I. Tangled Silk
II. Ouroboros
III. An Inferno of Ivories
My Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble grows out of two fundamental seeds — hastening repeated notes (initially C), and a four-note figure (initially C-Eb-D-G). The four-note figure and three small variants form a longer melody, which is present from the beginning, but moves at somewhat different speeds, and with many repetitions of notes, across several instruments — forming a web of lines (whence the first movement’s title, Tangled Silk). The first half of Tangled Silk is an unraveling of this, slowing the rate of notes and peeling away the density of texture until, at the middle of the movement, the pianist plays the pure melody, with only a simple counterpoint and drone, with the note repetitions reduced to a single repetition of a few notes in the melody. Over the latter half of the movement, varied forms of the motives recombine, until it reaches a level of density exceeding that of the beginning, cut off abruptly by a low pair of notes in the piano
These notes, C and Eb, signal the beginning of the second movement, Ouroboros. As fits the title (the name of the symbol of a serpent eating its own tail), it is (mostly) a passacaglia, with a repeating line, initially slow and sparse in the piano, gradually gaining speed and other layers surrounding it. It has the strictest form of any of the movements and, perhaps because of this, it is the most broken. Approximately halfway through, interruptions break into the progression of the passacaglia, switching abruptly to distorted glimpses of the middle of the first movement, before the passacaglia reasserts itself. The idea of the Ouroboros applies not only to the circular nature of a passacaglia but also to the movement overall — it ends, as it began, with tolling pairs of notes in the lowest range of the piano.
The third movement is titled An Inferno of Ivories, a paraphrase of the pun “Ivories in the Fire” from Homestuck, by Andrew Hussie (one might also trace references to [spiders’] silk and an ouroboros back to Homestuck, if more tangentially). A groove sets in immediately, from which the piano builds into a theme, fusing multiple branches of the main motives of the concerto. These rapid-fire fusions of elements across the concerto continue through the movement, into the final, still faster ascent of the piano, collapsing the divisions into a resolution of — inevitably — repeating C.