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Bates - White lies for lomax

Vectoral Analysis by Diego Barbosa-Vásquez

Bates - White lies for lomax

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Historical Background

This piano work, composed in 2007 is part of the compositions that is getting good reception by the public and critics at this era. Winner of the 3th place in the Van Cliburn American Composers invitational, and played at important piano competitions as a required piece, the work was commissioned by the Tanglewood music center in 2007. In addition to the composer recognition in USA as CSO (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) composer in residence, it's good reception can be explained for the combination of different elements. Examples of it are the open sounds that cover the dissonances and triadic organizations not always tonal, aspects that give a special kind of sound linked to the USA composers as Copland. In addition, the steady rhythm and the repetitive form with developments, elements that can be influenced by the minimalist approaches to the music or by the influence of pop cultures as blues.

Overview, Structure, and Texture

In addition to the steady rhythm and its possible blues influences that creates an easier connection of the audience to the piece, this work has a clear and easily founded structure of two themes organized as ABA1B1A2. Being A and B the primary themes that then are expanded but keeping the same ideas. This organization can be linked to the minimalist approach to the form with continuous repetitions and development of ideas that can be seen in Arvo Part or Steve Reich works too. In terms of the texture, the theme A is based in a monodic texture with some chords and just a little interaction of two voices at the end of the phrase. A texture that returned with the minimalism composers and was used by pop culture and composers as Reich. On the other hand, the theme B is more polyphonic with a pedal in the right hand while the left hand is doing gestures based in arpeggiations of a chord that even crosses the right hand as bells. Those arpeggiations creates also an open sound that can be linked to Copland.

Orchestration Techniques

The orchestration technique is based in a piano piece with a possible boombox playing “Dollar Maime” a recording by Alan Lomax. This is a resource that can be linked even to Stockhausen, Reich, Riley or Hartek with the influence of electronic and acoustic sounds at the same time. On the other hand, the end the theme A at the repetitions of the notes, can be seen as an orchestration element that tries to replicate bells, a device that can be linked to Arvo Part.

Basic Techniques

The piece is based in three principal elements of construction. First, the steady rhythm that can be linked to the pop and minimalism influences with Reich and Riley as possible influencer composers. Second, the theme development of a repetitive motivic material. A device that can be linked to the minimalist composers and also with Copland approaches to the form and melodic motivic treatment. Third, the triadic structure that defines the vertical and horizontal organization of the piece. This structure with constant dissonances can be linked to the jazz or blues styles and the way that Copland organize its sounds.

Vertical Models

Vertical models are primarily based in non-tonal triadic organization with dissonances. In terms of the more used intervals the piece starts with 5ths intervals in the bar 10 and then goes to fourths, thirds, double seconds in bar 17 and a cluster of 5 diatonic notes in bar 22 in the pedal right hand. In addition to those structures that are repeated in the whole work as important colors, the relation between the pedals and the horizontal motives can be seen as correlated based in triadic structures. Bar 87 is a good example with A-C-D in the pedal (As D7) with arpeggiations of left hand in D-F#-A-D completing the D7 chord. This kind of vertical treatment can be linked to Copland or Britten approach to the music being Copland closer due to the continues dissonant sounds.

Horizontal Models

Horizontal models are based in the triadic structure. The melodies are constructed by arpeggiation and step tones that hit the pitches of a triadic chord. Example of it is bar 80 with a chord E7 (including in the analysis the bass notes). Here the melody has C#-B-F#-G#-G-E-B, being C# and F# notes outside the chord and the others arpeggiating a E chord. Important to highlight the triadic organization from a tonal perspective of Major-minor structures where the G# and G creates the ambiguity.


This piece can be described as a very USA piece with many influences of important composers and styles of this country. The steady rhythm, the theme development and the triadic structure not always tonal and with many dissonances in it, are sounds that since Copland started to be consider as a USA sound. In addition, the rhythm created by Bates seems to be influenced by blues another important style of this country.

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