Spare Keys

Released: 31 December 2009

It is a pleasure for me to introduce Spare Keys, the fourth in my series of CD’s of original compositions for piano. Once again, I have attempted to produce pieces in a variety of styles and it is my hope that everyone who listens will be able to find a few compositions to enjoy. My son, Ben, has contributed an exciting new piece entitled “Storm at Sea” and Ellie, my daughter, demonstrates her versatility by playing three instruments on “Beholding Three Eleanors.”

CD Artwork

Liner Notes

  1. Raindrop Reflections: This piece was inspired by the sound of gentle rainfall in autumn. It is affectionately dedicated to Georgette Thompson, who passed away in 2009 and whose generous bequest helped fund this project.
  2. Petit Rondeau: A rondeau is a musical form from the classical era in which a main theme recurs repeatedly throughout the piece. This example is dedicated to my fabulous mother, Marilynn Fine (who is rather petite herself).
  3. The Fifth Amendment: This upbeat piece has a bass line made up largely of fifths, hence the title. It is dedicated to my longtime friend, Paul Davis (“Mel”), one of the smartest and funniest people around.
  4. Shadows Numberless: This piece was written for my wonderful father, Burril Fine. The title comes from the opening stanza of his favorite poem, Keat’s Ode to a Nightingale: “That though, light-winged dryad of the trees/In some melodious plot/Of beechen green and shadows numberless/ Singest of summer in full-throated ease.”
  5. Dear TICS: Feeling celebratory after Ellie passed her driver’s exam, I started writing this lively piece early on a Saturday morning. It was, in fact, a little too early for my wife, who had not yet had finished her morning coffee. Karen looked at me rather mournfully and asked: “Dear, must you play That Inordinately Chipper Song?”
  6. Edison High Alma Mater: My high school, Sylvania Northview, puts on a show each year called The Cat’s Meow. In my sophomore year, the show was about a fictional high school named Edison High (and its chief rival, Angels We Have Heard On High). Naturally, the school needed an appropriately wistful alma mater. Paul Davis wrote the lyrics, including the moving final stanza: “As our lives to pass us by/And our bulbs grow dim and die,/We will be brightened by the memories of you,/Our dear old Edison High.”
  7. Soul and Heart: I played this piece in The Cat’s Meow my junior year and on WBZ-TV in Boston four years later. The idea was to start playing the old beginning pianist’s standby “Heart and Soul” and to fill it with numerous awful mistakes. Then, just when the audience couldn’t take it anymore, I’d apologize for the mistakes, claim that they were due to cold hands, and put on a pair of mittens. Then, with mittens on, I’d rev up the tempo and play (ideally, without mistakes) a jazzy takeoff on the original. For this performance, I left out the mistakes; I didn’t want to risk someone listening to it without having read these notes.
  8. Her Father’s Voice: This piece was written earlier this year as a gift for my talented recording engineer, Eric Wojahn, whose wife is expecting their first child (a girl) in June of this year. I sought to conjure up an image of Eric holding and talking to his newborn daughter (hence the bass clef melody).
  1. The Kant Song: My college roommate, Roderick Long is a very talented lyricist with whom I’ve written several songs. Wild men that we were, we decided one time that it would be fun to try to summarize the philosophy of Immanuel Kant in rhymed verse and ragtime music. For this album, I didn’t have a singer who could do justice to Roderick’s wonderfully clever lyrics, but interested listeners can read those lyrics and hear the song sung by a talentless amateur by searching “The Kant Song” on Google. [2021 update: A version with the lyrics can be found on the Vocal Compositions playlist.]
  2. Promise: This song dates to 1982, when I was entrusted with a set of lyrics by Tammi Bexten Weiss. I still have very fond memories of playing the completed song for Tammi and our mutual friends, Liz and Abby.
  3. Ballad of the Unknown Pimble: This is the music from another collaboration with Roderick Long. Joe Hughes and I had jokingly told another of our roommates, Mark De Pasquale, that we had caused a terrible accident in the organic chemistry lab and had been expelled from the course. Over the next couple of days, the story became so elaborate that Roderick, always on the lookout for poetic inspiration, felt moved to compose epic verses about the purported accident and its aftermath. I then set them to (less-than-epic) music. [2021 update: A version with the lyrics can be found on the Vocal Compositions playlist.]
  4. B Flat-tery: An improvised piece in the key of B flat. My goal was to start with a basic thematic premise and then to improvise with less formal structure and a greater sense of spontaneity. This piece is dedicated to Patricia Edinger, affectionately known as “Mom E”
  5. Macho Points: The title of this ragtime piece comes from a game I’ve been playing for almost twenty years with my good friend, John Nastelin. Perhaps the length of the piece is a good indication of how many macho points I’ve earned over the years.
  6. Raindrops Revisited: The sounds of the rain are added.
  7. After the Rain: A piece written for my wife, Karen.
  8. Beholding Three Eleanors: I composed piano pieces for my children after each was born. To my great delight, Ellie has learned her piece, which I had entitled “Beholding Eleanor.” This recording has Ellie playing the original piano part, as well as newly-composed cello and flute parts. Naturally, the new arrangement had to be called “Beholding Three Eleanors.” She played on a cello made be her Aunt Freda (Yoshioka).
  9. Storm at C: This piece was composed and performed by my son, Ben. I told him that I had to put it last because my pieces would suffer by comparison if they had to follow his!