This stunning artwork by Alaskan artist Bob Patterson is on the cover of Susan Griesdale’s book of Piano Solos called Arctic Voices. She has captured the sound and feel of the Arctic in this collection – with pieces like Arctic Voices (winner of the 2011 CFMTA Call for Compositions), Drum Dance, Toques and Parkas, Dancing Skies, Glaciers.
I was delighted to see and chat with Susan again at the APTA Conference in September. She showed me her latest compositions and played Lament for the Polar Bear for me. In her words (which are in the helpful Performance Notes at the beginning of the book), this is to be played with a “fragile sound to portray the devastating plight of the Polar Bear… this piece takes you on a sad journey lamenting an unfortunate end for those that do not survive with the bell tolling at the end.”
Susan’s music is more cutting edge than a lot of current pedagogical music. Hers explores a lot more raw emotion, translated into music via rhythm and harmony. The Lament for the Polar Bear is a funeral march. The Polar Bear dies. She almost got choked up when she was talking about it. A few strong chords express anger at the circumstances that cause the death of these magnificent creatures. The ending is like the beginning – slow-moving open fifths (typical of northern music) – a memory of the polar bear.
This is another collection that is worth it for the one piece. I haven’t read through the rest yet but I keep in mind what Peter Gzowski once said on CBC Radio: “If you find one good recipe in a cookbook, it was worth the purchase price.” This piece is about a grade 6 level; the book is available through Red Leaf Pianoworks.
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