Piano Sonata No. 3


Solo Piano (2005)

Written for and dedicated to pianist Geoffrey Burleson. Commercial recording on Brian Banks: Sonatas and Preludes, Centaur Records CRC2893, 2007. Geoffrey Burleson, piano.

Optional Improvisation I
I. Allegro
Optional Improvisation 2
II. Introspective
Optional Improvisation 3
III. Allegro vivace

Score Sample

With improvisations, 12 to 20 minutes.
Without improvisations c. 10 minutes

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BRB Preludes CD Jacket copyI have always been interested in Plato’s classification of modes according to their effect on the human spirit, and the Indian ragas which are linked to a specific time of day or season. After one previous attempt (found in the “Rain Music” movement from my chamber work Pacific Time) I have wanted to return to the idea of writing a piece of music based loosely on the idea that certain pitch combinations are best heard during the rainy season. Like India, the rainy season in the Central Highlands of Mexico takes place during the summer months (roughly from May through October), and signals the end of the hot and dusty months of early Spring and the beginning of the planting season.

My “sonata for the rainy season”—therefore—is loosely inspired by Hindustani ragas that are normally played during the wet time of year (or in the evening if they are performed during the dry season!), but it is in no way an attempt to reproduce Hindustani music (if anything, one could call it “must written by an American who lives in Mexico”). The music can be played at any time of the year as far as I’m concerned, but one should keep in mind the source of inspiration when performing the work.

The Piano Sonata No. 3 was written for and dedicated to pianist Geoffrey Burleson. Part of Geoff’s great talent as a pianist has to do with the wide range of music he plays, from Franz Liszt to Arthur Berger, Frank Zappa to John Coltrane. Without Geoff, the Third Sonata with its Optional Improvisations (not to mention the First and Second Sonatas), would never have been written.

About the Optional Improvisations 

Each written movement of the Piano Sonata No. 3 is preceded by an improvisation which the performer can elect to play or can set aside. If the performer decides to improvise, all three improvisations should be played.

Each improvisation introduces the scale material and some of the main characteristics of the written movement that follows. While the inspiration for this kind of improvisatory introduction comes from the introductory “alap” section found in Hindustani music, the written score is not an attempt to imitate the music of the Indian Classical tradition, so the improvisations should probably be based rather closely on their corresponding movements rather than being free-ranging explorations of raga in the traditional sense of the term.

The duration of each movement should not exceed the length of the movement which it precedes, so that each one should last between thirty seconds and 3 1/2 minutes.