Snowprints (2017)

for solo piano
Commissioned by Gloria Cheng for Garlands for Steven Stucky
2 minutes

Steven Stucky was my first composition teacher. When I arrived at Cornell as an undergraduate, I had no formal training and had spent my childhood writing folk music. I dreamed of expanding my musical language and writing for orchestral forces, but did not know how to begin. I approached Professor Stucky with trepidation, unsure if he would accept me as a student since Cornell’s composition program is designed for doctoral students. Those of you who knew Steve can imagine how he immediately agreed to meet with me. I was lucky enough to study with Steve once a week for four incredibly formative years. Professor Stucky made me feel welcome and included in the intimidating world of contemporary composition. He had a way of making the immense, rich history of classical music accessible, even fun! My piece, Snowprints, strives to capture the spirit of our lessons. When discussing the music he loved, Steve would rapidly switch back and forth between a kind of solemn reverence and giddy excitement. He communicated his deep respect for the compositional art form as well as lighthearted joy about the creative process. In an attempt to capture these moments, Snowprints juxtaposes warm, grounded homophonic chords sounding in the piano’s lowest register with high, angular flurries and kinetic outbursts. The piece simultaneously captures the two of us: I was filled with anxiety and excitement about writing music for the first time and Professor Stucky steadied my nervous energy with calm and sincere encouragement. Steve taught me to believe in my own voice and to embrace my musical instincts. The title evokes the tremendous imprint and influence Steve and his music has had on my life, all against the backdrop of a wintry Ithaca landscape.