Description of Pieces of David J. Erskine
Including those available as sheet music, or recordings not yet collected into CDs

BCBC
| Sound | Score |

This is a short energetic piece composed while I was in college, 1975-79. During this period most of my music was frenetic, like this.

Butterflies
| Sound | Score |
Composed 4/24/92, this piece is a duet between the left and right hands. I picture a summer garden where two butterflies flitter about each other as they hop from plant to plant. This description also aptly describes the bubbly personality of a young daughter (Nona) of a friend. Upon learning of her first piano lesson, I thought it would be fun to mark the occasion by sending her a card with written music. So I set out to compose a short ditty, with the constraints that I would only use the white keys and one finger from each hand.

The ditty grew into a full fledged piece that was more difficult to play than I had intended for her. But it described her personality so well that I was quite pleased with the result. And I discovered it was quite a challenge for my left hand to play it well, and so it is a good excercise piece.

Terrie's Song (Come Walk with Me)
|
Sound | Score |
Composed Easter 1977. Originally it was the middle section of a larger, now-forgotten piece. My sister Terrie liked this piece and always requested me to play it; so I remembered it because of her. At the time it was unusual for me, because it had a slow tempo, while my other compositions tended to be frenetic.

Dad's Theme
| Sound | Score |
I wrote this down in 1977 for my father. I had forgotten about this theme until 1987 when I rediscovered it in my music notebook. I then augmented it with more measures in the same style. My early pieces such as this tended to use counterpoint. This was probably because my father was a Handel fan, and that was the style of music I was exposed to as a beginner.

Dreams
| Sound | Score |
This is a 16 minute rhapsody, lyrical and arpeggiated, dedicated to Dave's brother Tim and performed at his wedding ceremony to Stephanie in 1988. The musical idea can be traced to a section of a now-forgotten 1984 piece "Fantasy for Grandmother", a small section of which was written to score (thankfully) in the fall of 1984 to be a valentine called "With thoughts of Brenda", given to a new friend of his. In those days though the theme was played much quicker and without the right hand voice. Three years later the handwritten score was rediscovered and when played by Dave's friend Irene, was played much more slowly (lacking any tempo instructions), an accident which brought it into a new light. Inspired by this, Dave added the right hand voice (which now made sense with a slower arpeggiated base) and elaborated this theme into a major piece in time for Tim's wedding.

A Fantasy (1996)
| Sound | Score |
This moody piece is characterized by pervasive right hand octave tremolos. This piece began as the 2nd portion of a longer piece of the same name. But I separated the two because the total length was unwieldy and it didn't fit well together-- the mood of the 2nd portion being very different than the first. Finished composing February 1989 in time for the "Roses" recital April 1989.

Fantasy Part I
| Sound | Score |
This is part 1 of a longer piece (which i may call Fantasy 1989) in which the first half was composed in the spring 1987, but the latter half wasn't finished until Febrary 1989 in time for the Roses recital April 1989. Part 2 is now called Fantasy 1996 and played (and recorded) independently. The Part 1 has been edited to jump over the missing part 2 so that it, too, can be played independently.

A Field of Flowers
| Sound | - |
In this dream-like piece I use arpeggiation notes pointillistically to create a wash of tone, like the dots of color in an impressionistic painting. Each of three movements begins and ends in quiet places, but journeys elsewhere in between. The piece was originally intended as a 30-second ditty for my answering machine, but it sprouted arms and legs and grew.

The beginning of the second movement was inspired by Sue Houfek's account of how conductor Zubin Mehta at an evening outdoor concert in Rome, just before beginning "E lucevan le stelle", glanced up at the glittering night sky. I love the thought of that moment. The second movement begins delicately in the high register in reverence to the stars, but soon descends to warmer tones and evolves into what feels like a journey down a river. The third movement has the feeling of resurrection and resolution.

Composition began May 9, 1991, with a provisional title "Starry Night". By June, Amy Dunn said she saw a field of flowers, and water. The new title "A Field of Flowers" fits both the pointillistic and peaceful portions of the music. My roommate Jeff encouraged me, saying it was his favorite. By Halloween of 1991 it was finished. First public performance was at Barbara Umlauf's brunch December 15, 1991 (see photos).

Good Morning!
| Sound | Score |

A short exhuberant piece composed in 1990.

Grand Canyon (Overture), (Body & Epilogue)
| Sound1 | - |
| Sound2 | - |
This is my first orchestral composition, here realized by synthesizer. This piece was inspired by a majestic picture of the Grand Canyon hanging in my studio, although parts of the Body & Epilogue movement remind me of ocean swells. Composed beginning April 1992, finished near December 1992. Original title was "La Mer Grand" or "The Sea".

Composing this orchestral piece, I started with a scaffolding of piano, which then inspired supporting and replacement melodies for other instruments. These were woven throughout the piece, and then the original piano line was removed. On the day I began the piece, I literally threw my hands on the upper registers of the piano and out came the tinkling arpeggiation which is heard throughout the first part of the overture. From the accent notes of this arpeggiation developed the melody of the Body & Epilogue movement. For the orchestral and piano sounds I used Emu Proteus/2 and Roland RD300 synthesizer.

Happy Birthday Linda
| Sound | Score |

Composed for the birthday of my girlfriend's mom in 1985. I sent her family the sheet music, since she lived far away. Someone else played the piece. They said she enjoyed it quite a bit. The origin was a tune from 1983 I whistled while a graduate student at Cornell, I called "Phillips Hall Happy Song", that I pictured being played on a calliope.

The Illini
| Sound | Score |

Compose circa 1978 when I was in college. I remember working in the Illini Union (U of Illinois) as a waiter while inventing this piece. It probably began as a piece I whistled.

Sad Clowns
| Sound | Score |
I'm not sure when the theme was first composed, perhaps as early as 1984. By fall of 1986 it was in its present form. "Sad" because of its minor chords, "clowns" because of the funky 2nd interval in the motif.

Self-Portrait
| Sound | Score |
Composed as an assignment to Barbara Umlauf’s art seminar (October 89). The melody of the piece came to me when I was practicing a Schumann piece called “Chopin”. The left hand of that piece does an arpeggio in Aflat-Maj. I made a mistake of hitting one note too high at the top of the arpeggio (Bflat instead of Aflat) and discovered at that moment a genesis of a new melody, which I proceeded to explore. This was around the beginning of October 89, I believe. Later, I decided I could turn this into a piece which could claim to be a self-portrait (because the happy-go-lucky nature of the melody describes a part of myself), although it wasn’t invented for this purpose. I added darker sections as a foil to the happier melody, and wanted the piece to begin with this so that when the happy melody came through, it would appear so much happier in contrast. I wanted this to be in disembodied augmented chords, but what I came up with wasn’t fun to play. Then I discovered the impressionistic figure in the diminished 7th-- this was fun to play! --and so decided to begin with this.

A week or two before the due date, Nov. 7, I still didn’t know how I was going to resolve the piece or where it was going. Then in one night I figured out what I was going to do and the whole piece came together. I decided to make the slowly decending tones (from C, B, Bflat, A, to ultimately the home note Aflat) a secondary motif running in parallel with the principal motif, (which is the 3 or 4 notes of the happy melody.) The happy melody (or at least its chords) would be restated in a way, still in the main body of the piece, and in more lyrical fashion and with a different 4 note motif for variety.

So it was really in the last week that the piece was born. I noticed later a pattern in the music. The principal motif consists of 3 notes that first move away, then come back to where it started. This pattern is repeated throughout the piece, and on different scales. The impressionistic figure at the piece’s beginning also first moves away and then returns, anticipating the principal motif. Several of the arpeggios that are played in the darker sections also decend after ascending. Although I didn’t conciously design this, it is consistent with the self-portrait idea in the sense that I like a sense of security, I don’t like going too far out on a limb. Always coming back to the originating note gives a sense of well being and security.

This piece may not be especially beautiful sounding, but I think it is one of my better pieces from a compositional viewpoint. One of the listeners at the presentation at Barbara’s house remarked that she was dissappointed each time I would change from a section to another, because each section was pretty. She had wished I lingered longer on these pretty sections. Another said that she didn’t feel cheated, that it was authentic.

Julie Benner said this was her favorite piece of mine, because of the happy-go-lucky section. Julian White said he thought it was perhaps my best piece he had seen then.

A Time Apart (Raindrop movement)
| Sound | Score |
This piece depicts the evolution and transformation of my feelings following the breakup of a relationship in 1989. Composed beginning March 1990. The score is of the complete piece, but the performance recorded on the CD begins in the middle at the "raindrop" section. The prior section which we don't hear is initially contemplative and dazed, with some anger and agitation. This movement then descends toward a sad point, which is where we enter. In the raindrops section a realization takes place, which is followed by discovery and growing exuberance, but still embedded with conflict. The piece ends by evoking a strong renewal of purpose as the dazed/contemplative motif that began the first section is answered in a firmly developed and resolute form.

Under Quiet Trees We Join Hands
| Sound | Score |
This is a perky wedding serenade for Carol Ormond and Gene Noland. There are spots where I picture Carol and Gene in the roles of right and left hands. Composed during the summer 1990.

Valentine
| Sound | Score |

This is a cheerful valentine I wrote for someone who caught my eye soon in the spring of 1985. She loved the gift . . . but only the gift

White Stallion
| Sound | - |
The name comes from the mental image I held while composing the piece- a vast western range dotted with horses, under a brooding November sky. A characteristic of the piece is the dialog between the noodling ornaments in the left and right hands, with the right hand representing the stallion. Composition began in 1989 and ended in 1993.

Welcome Paul & Evelyne
| - | Score |
A piece for piano and trumpet finished Sept 2007 for my brother Paul's wedding to Evelyne. Performed at their outdoor ceremony in San Francisco overlooking the marina, with Richard House performing on trumpet. Based on a ditty from January 1996.

Sierra Passage (suite of 7 pieces)—

Inspired by Holst's program music "The Planets", this original acoustic solo piano music describes an imaginary voyage through the mountains in 7 movements. Composed in 1985, initially released in 1986 on tape cassette, in 2008 on CD. Accompanying the CD is a beautifully printed 6x9 inch booklet containing drawings and poems, also created by the composer's own hand, paired with each piano movement that illustrate the arc of the journey (a total of 9 drawings).

SP1. — Foothills
| Sound | - |
Drone of the engine as we drive through the rolling hills, hearts full of anticipation.

SP2. — In the Realm of the Mountain
| Sound | Score |
Beholding the majesty of the mountains-- interludes of the life that lives amongst it.

SP3. — Reflections from an Alpine Pool
| Sound | Score |
A quiet piece beginning with sunrise, a walk around a placid pool, ending in the splash of a tossed rock.

SP4. — Snowbound
| Sound | - |
Rhythmic cadence of cross-country skiing through the forest freshly shrouded in white.

SP5. — Sequoia Cathedral
| Sound | Score |
A long piece describing in erie tones the timeless giants with interludes of fire and storm. It is among the Sequoia trees that I find my most spiritual peace. Many people are impressed by their size, but for me, it is their age which demands awe. How do you write music to represent 2000 years? In this music, tolling bass notes represent idle passing centuries. Episodes of long waiting are punctuated by calamities such as windstorms, fire and the eventual felling of the tree. Augmented chords create an eerie atmosphere.

When I first relocated to California in 1984, I was enthralled by the natural splendor of the area and this inspired the suite Sierra Passage as a whole. But it was to help explain my awe of the Sequoia trees in particular, to my family in the midwest, that I created poems and drawings to accompany each movement of the music. This was recorded in 1985 on a Yamaha C7 piano at the Community Music Center in San Francisco.

SP6. — River Borne of Mountain's Tears
|
Sound | Score |
A short exhuberant piece painting the cascade of water in spritely rythmic chords. The rapid, flighty, broken chords are water bounding down the mountain, beginning as dripping trickles, growing into playful splash of stream, and concluding as a windblown waterfall.

SP7. — The Summit!
| Sound | - |
The joy of victory over (life's) challenges, combined with reflection over the journey just made, is celebrated.

— (Rick's) When You're Near Me
|
Sound | Score |
Wedding Piece for Rick and Ann-Marie House, July 9, 1994 in Frederick, Maryland. The title was originally "When You're Not Near", but my brother Tim liked the title so much I gave him permission to use it for his own independent composition, (which had lyrics befitting the title). The theme was borrowed from an undeveloped previous piece allocated for my sister Lynn, circa October 1989, but Rick beat her to the matrimonial state.

— Mary's Wedding Serenade
|
Sound | Score |
Wedding piece for my sister Mary, and Rick Grassel, August of 1984 in Chicago. This occasion was my first public (OK, family) recital since 3rd grade. That made for three nervous people in the church. Actually, it went so well I decided it would be fun to perform again. Inception was in Nov. 1983; mostly composed during spring 1984. I have a charming memory of playing this in a dorm lounge at Cornell (which had one of the few nice grand pianos), and when I finished, some little kid who was sitting on the rug near me said "that was pretty!".

— Amy's Wedding Serenade
|
Sound | Score |
Wedding piece for my step-sister Amy House & Scott Norfleet, September of 1987 in Frederick Maryland. I remember when composing this piece, I made more of an effort to consider the development and the overall layout of the piece than was typical for me in the past. Usually spontaneity and mood guided the direction of a piece in an aimless way. Here I tried to arrange that phrases introduced early on were eventually restated.

Janus - Herald and Introspection, for Trumpet and Piano
|
Sound1, Sound2 | Score |
For the January 6, 1996 recital I invited my trumpet playing step-brother Richard House to participate, to play some pieces with accompanist Irene Jacobson, and I to play my solo piano pieces (tracks on CD Expressions and CD Self-Portrait). With 3 weeks to go, I took the opportunity of Rick's presence to try my hand at a trumpet-piano piece, and I composed this piece "Janus" for the occasion. This was actually my first effort composing for another instrument besides piano, and my first performance accompanying another player. I wanted a cheerful heralding piece to begin the concert, so Janus begins with a joyful counterpoint.  The middle section is dark and brooding to act as a foil.  With these light/dark contrasting sections, it seemed appropriate to name the piece after the Roman god Janus, who is identified with doors, gates, and all beginnings and is represented artistically with two opposite faces. Composed by David Erskine, Dec 14-18, 1996. Playing time 8:50.

I Promise You (Paul's Theme), for Trumpet and Piano
|
Sound | Score |
The theme just popped out one day while I was whistling, the day before my brother Paul visited me in the spring of 1993. I knew immediately it could be a memorable melody, so I ran to the piano before I could forget it. My sister Lynn was also visiting and she remarked that the theme sounded appropriate for a transition. That's when it crystallized into its wedding purpose. By the next day I composed the middle section, and the piece was was largely finished in two days, which was unusually quick for me. I dedicated the piece to his upcoming wedding to his first wife Jill, and he used it in his wedding videos. This became a problem when he divorced, as now I worry that I can never play the piece without reminding him of his unhappy first marriage. So this piece rarely sees the light of day. But he’s not here tonight, so . . .

Chasing Mermaids
|
Sound | - |
Composed when I visited my brother Tim in July 85. This was the first time I had ever seen Tim’s (or anybody’s) 4-track and synthesizer, and I had the greatest time exploring this new instrument. For two days while Tim went to work, I came up with this song and recorded it on his 4-track. I was so impressed with the what I could compose in such little time that when I got back to Berkeley I took out a loan and bought my own identical equipment. However, I never took full advantage of it, merely doodling with it from time to time, because right then I became very excited and involved with the Sierra Passage project. I had always intended to get back to learning how to make music with synthesizers after finishing my piano projects, but there seems to be a never ending source of these.

March Rain
|
Sound | - |
Composed May 2012 based on an idea improvised March 2011. Performed for the Composers Group Recital, June 15, 2012, Grace Presbyterian Church, Walnut Creek, CA, Contra Costa Performing Arts Society series. This version was done in rehearsal warming up for the performance.

item5a
CDcover1x1a
DaveHeadshotItaly1820c1
PC261312a
SUZCGift2400a
clappinghandslg1
ButterfliesSnap1
lettersmailingBW1
Soiree1bott1
NightskyCDThmb1

info@pineshadow.com
Oakland, California

Top of Pineshadow Music

— Description of Pieces —
headlogowtext

Top of entire Pineshadow site

Top of Pineshadow Music

info@pineshadow.com

Listen
Where to buy
Reviews
Bio
CDs
Sheet Music
Contact
Soirees
Links
Drawings

BCBC
Butterflies
Terrie's Song
Dad's Theme
Dreams
Fantasy1996
FantasyPart1
Field of Flowers
Good Morning!
Grand Canyon
Happy Birthday Linda
Illini
Sad Clowns
Self-Portrait
Time Apart
Under Quiet Trees ...(Carol's)
Valentine
White Stallion

Pieces
item5

Welcome P & E
-
Sierra Passage suite
- - Foothills
- - Realm
- - Reflections
- - Snowbound
- - Sequoia Cathedral
- - River Borne ....
- - Summit!
_
Rick's Wedding ...
Mary's Wedding ...
Amy's Wedding ...
Janus
I Promise You (Paul's Theme)
Chasing Mermaids
March Rain
_
_