Violin Sonata: Its Own Accord
If we say something happens “of its own accord,” we mean it happens by itself, mysteriously, without our needing to intervene.
Sadly it’s not quite as easy as that to write music. The composer can’t help but intervene, whether gently or fiercely. She or he must funnel and angle the music so that it pours, like molten metal, into the desired form.
But when composing is going well, it feels as though the music takes shape “of its own accord.” That word, “accord,” has a number of resonant alternate meanings: it can mean harmony or agreement, both in a general sense and in the specific sense that a treaty may be called an “accord.” As a verb, it can mean both “to grant power” and “to reconcile.” The German and Italian words for “chord” are “Akkord” and “accordo,” respectively.
I call my violin sonata Its Own Accord because the vast slow movement is so unlike anything I had written before (massive, patient, harmonically quite simple, where my music usually tends towards hyperactivity) and it took shape so suddenly (in a day or two, in Toronto in the fall of 2016), that it seemed to have happened – yep – of its own accord.
The piece’s first movement is highly volatile, alternating between periods of molten instability and moments of hard-earned repose, moments which feel like stepping indoors to take a few deep breaths before going back into a storm.
The second movement’s atmosphere seems tranquil at first, with the violin’s long-breathed line floating high above a patient pulse in the piano. But we follow that pulse to various extremes: reassurance turns into relentlessness, and the piece nearly grinds to a halt before (I hope) unlocking a gateway back into the contemplative landscape of its opening.
The brief third movement is the bursting of the bubble.