Derek R. Brookes

A Remnant

Composition Date: 2017
Duration: c. 3.05′
Instrumentation: Solo Piano

Program Notes

Not long after I completed this piece, I found this hauntingly beautiful poem by Dan Howell (reproduced here with kind permission from the author).

Her wattled fingers can’t
stroke the keys with much
grace or assurance anymore,
and the tempo is always
rubato, halting, but still
that sound—notes quivering
and clear in their singularity,
filing down the hallway—
aches with pure intention, the
melody somehow prettier
as a remnant than
whatever it used to be.1

As I thought more about this wonderfully evocative poem, it struck me that it conveyed thoughts, emotions and images very similar, in essence, to those I had been trying to express in my music.

I had written a piece that consisted almost entirely of single chords, ‘filing down the hallway’, as it were, with a ‘halting’ rhythm and a ‘pure’ melody line, free from any embellishments and flourishes. The music expressed a sense of loss, a paring back of ‘whatever it used to be’, leaving only the bare essentials, yet also ‘aching’ with the hope that it would ‘somehow’ still work, just as it is.

In acknowledgement of this (serendipitous) alignment, I drew on the penultimate line for my title; and, with the permission of Dan Howell, included the full poem in my score and in these program notes.

The music was composed before I came across this poem, and so it can be heard on its own. But I hope that reading the poem alongside my work will ‘open up’ the music in a different way.

In June 2018, the concert pianist John Martin recorded a stunning performance of this piece at the Church Street Studios in Sydney. Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Damian de Boos-Smith.

1 First published in Poetry (Sept. 2011)