Slonimsky Studies – Set 1

For solo piano

from Slonimsky Study I.

Nicholas Slonimsky, pianist, composer, conductor, author and teacher, was a pioneer in performing the
works of Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Edgar Varèse, and many other American composers. He is known today principally for his Lexicon of Musical Invective (1953) and the Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns (1947). He described his thesaurus as providing ‘a comprehensive vocabulary of melodic phraseology for modern composers and performers’. Its contents are designed to provide ‘ample material for improvisation and actual composition’. As a successful resource for improvisation there can be no doubt: John Coltrane is said to have worked daily with these scales and patterns and the book is one of the most ‘borrowed’ items from library reference sections! The evidence for the use of the thesaurus by composers is less well-known although figures such as Bernstein, Malipiero and Honegger have acknowledged it as a valuable part of their working library. The most celebrated and recognisable musical work to come out of an engagement with the collection has to be John Adam’s Slonimsky’s Earbox. This is a remarkable piece of virtuoso writing for large orchestra using many hundreds of the thousand-plus patterns found in the thesaurus. It was composed for the Hallé Orchestra and first performed at the opening of the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, UK.

from Slonimsky Study II.

Nigel Morgan’s use of the Slonimsky Thesaurus has coincided with his work in computer-assisted composition, in particular the development of the Symbolic Composer software for Macintosh where part of the thesaurus is available as a data library. There are a number of significant compositions written since 1991 that use Slonimsky patterns as both starting points and structural devices. These include the concert length Schizophonia,Conversations with Magic Stones for double bass and ensemble, Dreaming Aloud for solo guitar and many other works for diverse instrumentation which are discussed hereSlonimsky Studies (Set 1) date from 1994 and were the very first essays in the use of these patterns in tandem with a computer-assisted composing system. They are presented as a three-movement concert work, but may be played individually as required.


Downloadable Media

Study Score [pdf]I [mp3] II [mp3] III [mp3]