touched was commissioned by Stephen de Pledge for inclusion in a programme on the theme of love, in 2014. The piece is in a single movement, using a slow- fast structure with the two sections being related thematically.
It begins with a soulful melody, which is based around 3 distinct shapes: motif 1, in bars 1-2 (C-B- E-D), motif 2 in bar 3 (A-B-D-C-B-E) and motif 3 in bar 4 (E flat-A-D). Motifs 2 and 3 represent a pair of lovers, while motif 1 is based on the word 'touched', using the German note names for the last 4 letters.
Touching can be an expression of love, but the specific word 'touched' also suggests madness: being in love can sometimes be a type of madness.
Touch is also a pianistic term, and this piece attempts to survey a variety of touches, from very smooth to very jagged. For example, the lyrical and smooth melody at the start is interrupted by a penetrating 2-note gesture in bar 10, representing a bird-call.
Bird-calls recur throughout the piece as a sort of backdrop to the human expressions, distracting the lovers and providing musical contrast. A similar thing occurs at the start of the quick section (bar 53), where the long smooth lines are juxtaposed with a bird-call in bars 71-3. This section has a more turbulent feel, including a violent section (bar 138-160) where the squawking of birds becoming the arguing of humans.
This conflict re-surfaces near the end, but is resolved in the short coda, and the piece ends as it began, with the 'touched' motif.
touched was released in May 2017 on a CD collection of NZ piano works entitled Sarajevo. The CD was recorded by pianist Jian Liu for Atoll Records, and can be purchased from Marbecks.
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