Fred Lerdahl

The Music and Writings of Composer Fred Lerdahl

Program note for Marches


I composed Marches (1992) for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which premiered it in late 1992. Written for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, the work is in one movement lasting approximately 16 minutes. 

The idea for Marches initially arose after I completed another chamber work, a cycle of twelve waltzes called Waltzes, in the early 1980s. I set the plan aside in favor of other projects and returned to it only a decade later. As a result, the form of Marches shows the influence of intervening works, in particular the chamber piece Fantasy Etudes and the orchestral piece Cross-Currents. In these compositions, contrasting musical materials juxtapose and overlap, often through intricate tempo modulations, in an evolving structural counterpoint that depends more on similarity of process than on recurrence of material. 

Marches is not a set of separate marches but a phantasmagoria of overlaid march-like ideas, some apparently familiar and others arising inexplicably, creating an overall mood that veers unexpectedly between humor and passion. Occasional references to marches by Sousa, Mahler, and others integrate into my own extended tonal language. Beneath the seemingly free play of ideas, the music passes in an orderly way through all the tonal regions. Only near the end does the flow of invention yield to recapitulation, leading to a ferocious final climax. 

Fred Lerdahl


all materials copyright Fred Lerdahl 2009