René Damen - Chamber Music
 
String Quartet No. 1 "Kittens In An Apple Tree" (Op.14) - (Dec. 14, 2020 - May 3rd, 2022 - duration 11:15)
  

Notice: This is a digital rendering until a much needed live recording becomes available.
(Sound samples: Joshua Bell Violin and Vienna Symphonic Library's Violin, Viola and Cello)

  • I. La vie dans la pommier n'est pas compliquée
  • II. Les chatons n'ont pas peur du tout (starts at 4:52)
  • III. L'avenir c'est à moi!
(First two movements; third movement not yet finished.)
Suite-For-Piano

Images from my childhood / A children's drawing

For all 7-year olds in the world, big and small.

From the familiy archives my brother Ernie recently dug up this photo taken in 1955. It evokes in me a strong childhood memory and it reminds me of the drawing I made at the time (forever lost) of the kittens in the tree.

I was 7 and we had just moved into a big new house with a sprawling backyard and even our own tiny forest. I remember that pathetic apple tree behind the house very well. Looking at it I can still remember the thrill of having started a new life in our little paradise. Capturing that in music is next to impossible but nevertheless worth trying: redrawing the scene so to speak, this time in notes and me being ten times older now.

The first part with its simple theme is reminiscent of a nursery song expressing the ignorance of these furry softballs, oblivious of any peril. I titled it ironically, "Life in the apple tree is not complicated". The second movement, "The kittens have no fear at all", reflects also on myself: the easily excited naive youngsters at that age. The third movement is shaping itself in my head and I hope to be able to write it soon (and there might be a forth). - Anyway, enjoy this preview!

"Ennio Duet" For Violin & Viola No. 1 (Op.13) - (August 8 - August 28, 2020 - duration 8:12)
  

Notice: This is a digital rendering until a live recording becomes available.
(Sound samples: Joshua Bell Violin and Vienna Symphonic Library's Viola)

The tribute to Ennio Morricone starts around 5:50
Suite-For-Piano

This duet starts out with a classic theme in B-flat minor, - after about two minutes transitioning into the main segment: a slightly atonal and a mostly dissonant back-and-forth between the two players followed by a brief variation on the opening theme leading up to the Ennio Morricone tribute starting at around 5:50 minutes.

The beloved Italian composer Ennio Morricone wrote over 400 film scores in a vast variety of styles in addition to 100+ classical works. Most impressive and memorable for me as a young man were the soundtracks for the so-called "spaghetti-westerns" evoking so effectively and suspenseful the loneliness of the desert.

Morricone passed away July 7, 2020 and I listened to a few of his most famous compositions once again with great joy!

Suite for Piano No. 1 (Op.12) revised (Six short pieces for piano - 2020 / 2022 - duration 20:52)
This suite for piano consist of six short pieces in an eclectic mix. It is inspired in part by Bach, Mozart, Prokofiev and Hindemith. On a subconscious level, I was also influenced by sixties pop-music (I am from the Beatles generation), especially in some phrases and melodies as well as--ever so subtle--by jazz rhythms. The digital piano I used for this rendition is the Petrof by Modartt (Pianoteq). Enjoy!

  • I. Saut de Chat
  • II. Gargouillade (starts at 4:06)
  • III. Carré (starts at 7:45) NEW
  • IV. Sur tes orteils (starts at 11:40) NEW
  • V. Cabriole (starts at 15:21)
  • VI. Grand Jeté (starts at 19:06)
Suite-For-Piano

The six movements are loosely related and most of them (especially III, IV and V) could be played on their own outside of the suite. VI should be fun as an encore; as the finale, it is a lighthearted scherzo kind of thing. However the order in which they appear in this suite is quite deliberate. In general the pieces have a percussive feel to them and rarely venture into the realm of romanticism. They are not per sé modern music either, even though dissonants occur regularly. "Carré" reminds of pop and it swings a little; part IV builds unmistakably on a classic foundation. This piece, "Sur tes orteils" ("On your toes") is a bit of an outlier and, as the title suggests, rather suited for ballet (see music video on YouTube).

La Chanson de l'Amour Fol - Duet for Piano & Oboe in 3 movements (Op.11) - (2019 - duration 10:04)

 

Inspired by Jacques Brels's "La Chanson Des Vieux Amants"
Recorded at the Corthell Hall, USM School of Music, November 26, 2019 (Thank you, Lori!)
Performers: Josie DiPhilippo, Piano and Aaron Emerson, Oboe

Intrigued by the Flemish / French singer Jacques Brel ever since I was 15, by his personality, his raw and driven performance style and the lyrics to his chansons, one song stands out for me in particular: La Chanson Des Vieux Amants. It kept me spellbound for decades, as I attempted to decipher the meaning behind its gripping lyrics.

For this duet, specifically written for the gifted oboist Aaron Emerson, I borrowed three significant quotes from the song as my inspiration for, and the interpretation of the subject matter as I finally came to see it. The quotes serve as the titles of the movements.

René

  • I. Chambre Sans Berceau
  • II. Éclats Des Vieilles Tempêtes (starts at 3:10)
  • III. Je t'aime Encore, Tu Sais, Je t'aime (starts at 6:48)

Watch a live performance on YouTube.

La Chanson Picture 1

I. Chambre Sans Berceau (Room without crib)

The relationship between two people-in-love is challenged and tested, causing anguish and friction, when their marriage remains childless. Blame and guilt slowly drives a wedge between them, despite attempts to hang on to their committed love.
La Chanson Picture 1

II. Éclats Des Vieilles Tempêtes (Shards of old storms)

After twenty years the echos of raging old storms are still audible and shards of broken dreams still visible in the corners of that room. But every now and then, when the taste for fighting is lost, a clear and hopeful tune can be heard ringing throughout the house.
La Chanson Picture 1

III. Je t'aime Encore, Tu Sais, Je t'aime (I still love you, you know, I love you)

Despite decades of resentment, neglect and infidelities, in the end the love survives; though un-passionate and non-exuberant, as a given it persists, pure and simple, as on the beat of a slow, never-ending three-step dance between two kindred souls.

Morning-Midday-Night, A Tryptich For Solos - (Fall 2018 - duration 10:07)

  • I. English Horn Solo
  • II. Flugelhorn Solo (starts at 3:22)
  • III. Alto Sax Solo (starts at 7:00)
Tryptich For Solos (Image)
I. Morning (for English Horn): Five minutes of serenity - Daybreak - Clarion call - Wake up! - Pace picks up - Tired! Already? - Get up. You’re late! - Good morning?! - Arguing ritual - Coffee. Please!!
Tryptich For Solos (Image)
II. Midday (for Flugelhorn): Wake-up coffee - Happy commute - “Singing In The Rain” (quote) - “An American In Paris” (quote) - Siren / Traffic - Office work - 5 O’clock slump - Introspection of Life - Happy Hour turns sour.
Tryptich For Solos (Image)
III. Night (for Alto Sax): Relaxation - Reflection - He sa(i)d, she sa(i)d (Bar Talk) - One more? - Home now! - Really sleepy.

 

  • Download the full score
    (A license is required for performance of any or all three pieces. Contact Damen Digital.)

 
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