piano

Kei Terauchi - Tempest in Light

This is a recording of Kei Terauchi’s composition she contributed to the first issue of the B0arside zine:

The text which accompanies it:

This piece portrays an experience one might have wandering the Outer Sunset neighborhood from dusk till dawn. The story is extremely simple. It’s nightfall. The protagonist walks and revels in the moonlight and music until the sun rises.

Compositionally, the piece is a pastiche of references from my own musical memory. I’m always curious about sounds in my head and the distortions the memory plays. I will go over these references to unfold my compositional process and, hopefully, to offer nuggets of music geekdom.

The piece opens with “Tempest’s theme.” The first four notes of the melody [A - F - E - D] come verbatimly from the main melody of Beethoven’s piano sonata Op. 31 No. 2 Mvt. III. The sonata is nicknamed “The Tempest,” and, thus, determines the identity of the protagonist of my piece. So, here she is. Tempest wanders into the night in the Outer Sunset. Although the accompanying chords and the melody following are far from Beethoven’s original, this is a note-for-note musical reference.

Tempest’s theme shows fluidity in tonality and rhythm. The first two measures assert we are in D major/minor, then quickly pivot to G major/minor. We also get a glimpse of the rhythmic bend with the triplet sixteenth notes in m. 3 that foreshadow more rhythmic variations to come.

Tempest confronts the moonlight in the next section (m. 5-8). Ostinatos (repeated right hand chords) in groups of 7s, 8s and 9s pay homage to Debussy’s classic piano work, “Claire de Lune.” In this French composer’s celebrated work, the section that starts on m. 15 is one of the most breathtaking; sustained low Eb octaves are followed by shimmering chords that outline [F - Eb- Eb- Eb- Db- Db - Db - C - C- C- Db - Bb] while defying rhythmic restriction. As for our Tempest in the Outer Sunset lit by the Lune, the octaves that outline the right hand chords loosely trace the chorus of Daft Punk’s song “Get Lucky.” Though unsung, the lyrics here, “She’s up all night ‘til the sun/ I’m up all night to get some/ She’s up all night for good fun/ I’m up all night to get lucky,” overlay with the light of Debussy’s moon. Tempest may have encountered a group of dancers at Ocean Beach.

The arpeggios in m. 9-11 harken to the bridge in the same song by Daft Punk, “We’ve come too far to give up who we are/ So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars,” and feature diminished 7ths, already familiar to us as they made an appearance in Tempest’s theme (m. 3, beats 3 & 4).

Returning to our protagonist’s theme from m. 12, we see that she has now gained rhythmic freedom after her experience with Debussy & Daft Punk. We slow down to Calando and anticipate the sun to rise at any moment. This sunrise was hinted at by Daft Punk earlier and is implied in Tempest’s joyful tiredness shown in rests and fermatas. Finally, her theme [A - F - E - D] turns into [D - F - E - D], ending the piece with [A - G - F# - D], not an exact quote, but a liberal citation of Soul II Soul’s “Keep on Movin,” concluding Tempest’s night out in the Outer Sunset with, “Yellow is the color of sun rays.”

Kei Terauchi, October 2020

  • In putting this piece on a score, I went through the fact checking process, which was filled with surprises. For instance, I didn’t know that “Claire de Lune” was based on Verlaine’s poem of the same title. “While singing in a minor key/ Of victorious love, and the pleasant life/ They seem not to believe in their own happiness/ And their song blends with the moonlight.” How perfect that this unwittingly intersects with Daft Punk.