Benjamin Williams

Tease (2012)

After a year-long experiment with "miniatures" (complete musical expressions in 60 seconds or less) as a teaching tool for my composition students, I feel as though I should have somehow expected that I would be asked by my good friend David Tomasacci—General Manager of the New Music Collective at The Ohio State University—to write some myself. It's one thing to tell students that this genre is an "easy" way to try out a lot of different ideas and quite another other to take on the task of paring down my own musical thoughts to the absolute bare necessities.

The process of putting together a miniature piece was revealing to me as I found myself simply scaling-down some aspects of the music, while at other times completely omitting something that likely would have been included had it been "full-size". An example of the former is the sonata-like form of the first movement, which, despite the overall brevity, allowed a full 10 seconds for development of the ideas from the opening. The third movement, on the other hand, was originally conceived as a rondo-like form with a recurring refrain; however, that proved to be too much for 60 seconds. Instead, this final movement features a canon inbetween merely two iterations of the echoing refrain.

Perhaps the most delightful surprise to me was the slow middle movement that lasts no longer than 10 measures. I had much more planned when I timed out my opening and found I had already hit 40 seconds! That's when I realized that the lamenting melody was almost complete; everything I had planned would have only served to delay the sad ending I saw coming but wished to put off. In 60 seconds or less, there's nowhere to hide.

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