When looking through a wide library of David T. Little’s works, I was immediately drawn to his piano trio for amos written in 2004. Piano trios have historically been one of the most popular genres to compose for and thus have an incredible amount of quality repertoire published for them. I became curious about what David T. Little, a 21st-century composer, had in store for this behemoth of a genre. Upon listening to the piece, I found that his style of writing does not shy away from the traditional Classical style of composing. In fact, many of his writing techniques such as the tonality, meter, lyricism, and the generally rare use of extended techniques, serve as evidence that in this particular piece, for amos, David T. Little provided the audience with an accessible, attention-grabbing work that could without question be tied back to the Western Art Classical tradition.
While the form of the piece is ambivalent, there is some semblance to binary form solely in the sense that it can be divided into two parts. This ambivalence is quite common in the Classical tradition of the 20th-century. The “A” part presents an ominous theme throughout. Each time the statement of the theme returns, it becomes heavier. However, it is always paired with a lyrical statement, thus creating a juxtaposition of darkness and light. Little supports this juxtaposition with dynamics, creating tension and release when needed. The conversation between darkness and light, or “good” and “evil”, finally reaches resolution and peace in the “B” part, a lyrical section with a lighter texture. Even though the effects Little creates present a storm of mixed emotions, the tonality is what preserves the “sanity” and provides stability throughout the piece, as the entire composition has a tonal center of C. Adding onto the tonal uniformity, Little carefully uses dissonance to create tension and gloominess, but never to the point where it becomes overwhelming to the listener. Another feature that brings a sense of familiarity to the listener and adds calmness to the piece’s charged emotions is the never-changing duple meter. Little uses these techniques to provide a “safe haven” amidst the vortex of feelings. His skillfulness is realized with the creation of a musical work that the audience can relate to, as it has the same quality and traits seen in the Classical tradition.
For amos is mostly homophonic, a commonly found texture in the typical piano trio setting. However, Little highlights the importance of each of the instruments by allowing all of them to take charge with a “leading” role. This is seen both through the main theme circling around instruments, as well as the exchange of the lyrical melodies. The lyricism resembles the music of the late 19th-century and results in an incredibly well narrated piece, as what feels like a stormy day is then interrupted by the sun finally coming out. At the very end, there are even sounds of the chirping of birds, heard through sul ponticello false harmonics in the strings, indicating the long awaited calm.
David T. Little does very little to indicate that this piece was written in the 21st-century. There is only one instance where he uses an extended technique, adding electronic sound to the cello and violin. This electronic sound was created using a technique called “scratch tone”, made by applying extreme pressure to the bow, causing a grating sound. However, this technique was already in use in the 20th-century. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that Little created a piece that belongs in the historical narrative of traditional Classical music. Most importantly, he created a piece that captures the listener’s attention and tells an intriguing story.
Little, David T. “Works.” Accessed March 07, 2019. https://davidtlittle.com/works/.