Thursday, March 11, 2010

Joel LaRue Smith: 'I worked on the 2nd and 3rd movements of the Sonata with Hale [Smith]'

[Joel Larue Smith]

The African American composer Hale Smith (1925-2009) was an influential figure in both Classical Music and Jazz. He is profiled at, which features a complete Works List compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma. Since his death on November 24, 2009, some of his former students and friends have recounted their relationships with him. On March 5, 2010 AfriClassical posted news from of a performance on March 19, 2010 at the Distler Performance Hall, Granoff Music Center: “Tufts U.: 'Joel LaRue Smith, a former student of Hale Smith, features a work in honor of Hale Smith's life in music.'” “A special appearance by pianist Joel LaRue Smith, a former student of Hale Smith, features a work in honor of Hale Smith’s life in music.”

Joel Larue Smith was kind enough to contact us after the post appeared. He explained the work he will perform is his Piano Sonata No. 1, and added: “I worked on the 2nd and 3rd movements of the Sonata with Hale.” “Attached are the program notes for the Piano Sonata. Since, I will be only playing the second and third movements, I have only included information regarding those movements.”

Piano Sonata No.1
Program Notes

The second movement is entitled Lamentations. This movement is marked as adagio and opens with a simple melody in the right hand, with an arpeggiated accompaniment in the left hand. The entire piece evokes the simultaneous feelings of lament and triumph. The use of strategically placed minor second intervals in the melody, along with a cascading and descending chordal structure in the left hand accompaniment helps to imply a vision of uncontrollable weeping. The movement seeks to show the power of being able to feel sadness as a sign of life, humility and affirmation of one’s compassion for humanity.

Written in a mixed meter, this movement evokes a montage of emotions. The concept of this movement is derived from taking a small idea, and watching its change, transformation, innovation and conversion. Through the use of rhythmic displacement, register manipulation and intervallic inversion, simple motifs are converted to grand ideas. The development section of the movement was written to imply a locomotive train adjusting its speed and location in time and space. The development leads to a long transition section, which then introduces a rhapsodic melody accompanied by lush jazz harmonies. The transition section rejoins the composition to the recapitulation. The movement is kinetic, alive, bold and unforgiving regarding the combined use of Classical music, Latin American music and Jazz as a joint form of expression.

No comments: