Piano for solo performance, 5 pages, approx. 4 minutes.
"Epic" has a haunting, somewhat dark tone made to sound minor and unresolved though within major keys (C major & D major) and without accidentals of any kind. Atop the rhythmic drive of the left hand support is a floating melody of forlorn quality which nevertheless manages to keep its own against the bass by virtue of being both engaging, and receiving some sleight-of-hand with dynamics.
sheet music pdf
document source (13K)
mp3 - zipped (4.8MB)
This piece was composed sporadically over the course of about 4 months in early 1998 as time and circumstance permitted. As is the case with most of my songs, it was assembled a little portion at a time in a mostly linear fashion. Each snippet is then memorized in place until the whole of the work is present and can be played start to finish from memory. Only then did I attempt notation by hand, eventually transferred into digital form.
I don't recall exactly where the theme came from - probably wandering fingers during some quiet moment with a piano when fiddling around generally. The motivation was clear though: this was catharsis for me, an ability to create a reflection of feeling bordering on despair. At the time I was adapting to the ill effects of some health issues that discouraged physical activity, but which came at a time when such activity and movement were a significant portion of my life and happiness. Attempts to push against the crushing influence resulted only in aggravation which further complicated and depressed my capabilities; though there were times, even knowing this, when I did it anyway because of the absolute need I felt for the essence of movement. I would pay the price, sometimes dearly, but the brief release would be worth it.
This plays out musically through the menacing overshadowing of the bass over the melody, and the resurgent nature of the dynamics: to get pushed, push back, suffer, and maybe eventually even fail; but to have acted honestly all the same.
During these months I had access to a long-blown aluminum Celtic flute, which happened to be in the key of D major. The entirety of the piece until that time had existed in its C major form, but the sound of the flute so astutely embodied the mournful pathos that I decided to add the key change two thirds of the way through. Similarly, in the same home in fact, was a small 22 string harp.
Plunking around on it I landed upon the idea of introducing my main melody as a bass support and finding what descant could move on top of it to create a sense of variance; I felt this necessary due to the otherwise repetitious nature up till then. This became the opening sequence, which theme is eventually revisited at the bridge to the key change.
Haphazard as these additions were, the final sound is much matured as a result. Though still formulaic and perhaps droning in the left hand, I've enjoyed playing it over the years. I've occasionally toyed with the idea of layering some orchestration with this, with some substance (a few midi experiments). This is not my strong area though, so it will either not happen or take an extraordinarily long time (and maybe still not happen).
Of particular sentimental value, this is the piece I was practicing when I met my wife in late November of 1998. I'd been practicing a Christmas piece ("Trinity Chimes," by Walter Decker) for performance the following month when I decided to take a break and switch back to Epic for a while, since I'd been working on the notation around the same time. I don't recall exactly at what point during the performance I heard the words, but I shan't forget them, simple as they were: "Sounds good, do you have the sheet music for that?"
I looked up and saw this beautiful woman for the second time - the first having been earlier that day during church when she was briefly filling in as a substitute pianist. I'd planned on approaching her later but had lost track of her after the services, and so eventually fell back to an unoccupied room to practice. Encountering her under those circumstances was far more romantic anyway - despite the fact that my brain switched OFF and I proceeded to ramble energetically for the next two hours. But that's all for another story - sufficeth to say, this piece is one I'm going to keep around for a while if only out of honor to a special and unique memory.
This is not a piece for the audience, with the exception perhaps of very small audiences of 1 to 5 people. Rather, this is intended to be enjoyed/used by the performer as their own emotional vehicle for expression regardless of who may be listening. It was written in this way, and the repetitive (if droning) bass is intended to allow one to forget they are even playing, or that effort is required to do so. The point being to get lost in the pull of a story - any story - and forget the music is even there.
Technically this is not particularly difficult though it does ask for a good amount of reach in the left hand. Nothing more than an octave spread is ever played simultaneously but it moves very quickly from there up another third. I normally play this high trio all with the thumb, preventing me from moving my hand too far before the next phrase demands the same kind of bass emphasis which I would then have to rush back to. If another combination works better for smaller hands I'd love to hear about it and add the instructions (so as to make the work more accessible), with full credit to the contributor.
The dynamic pattern should match the visual one, which is to say with rich smooth swells. There are instructions on top of this, but these are more recommendation for where those other inherent dynamics should end up and not intended to diminish the natural flow.
Go nuts with the pedal but be careful on pianos (or synth voices) which place too much emphasis on the lower register, causing the melody to drown. While this is the intent at times in the emotional presentation, it should nevertheless always be clearly audible without too much effort.
Personally, I always play this too fast. I was honest in the recording though, and left it at the original speed. I tried fudging around with the sequencer to pull it back a little, but it made minor "nuances" into "stuttering gaps" at times. It also let some of the passion out, so a tempo it shall remain. I also don't know that I've ever played it the same way twice. Precision is less important than feeling here, by far.