Yeah, I know what you are thinking, but this is not a piece about an urban nightmare and a soccer mom - it's a palindrome! And, it's a 'perfect' palindrome. Not just 'Otto,' or 'Bob' but a
complete sentence wherein each word is a palindrome and the entire sentence is a palindrome itself.
I am entranced with palindromes. I still think that there is a future for a palindromic opera. Imagine the the duet: "Otto: Go Hang a salami I'm a lasagna hog! Bob: Put Eliot's toilet up!"
Ah, romance is not dead.
Musically, I've been experimenting for years with palindromes in compositions. The trouble with palindromes in music, as opposed to prosal palindromes, is that they are less obvious musically than they are when you look at the word or phrase on a page.
It is really tough to hear a palindrome in a piece of music.
Also, the pitch and phrase construction is quite complicated in even the smallest piece of music.
In "Did Mom Pop, Mom Did" the musical phrase is five measures long. (To see it clearly, look for the brackets that I have placed in the music. You can get the sheet music at
When looking at the sheet music you can do a mental "X" cross and follow the right-hand over the bar line where it becomes the left-hand backwards. The same for the left-hand as it goes over the bar line, becoming the right.
The same occurs at the end of measure 12 where, here, the palindrome not only occurs with the subsequent bars, but also serves as a mid-point (palindromically) as the piece now unfolds the same backwards as it is forwards.
These are fun pieces to write and calculate, and I believe that they are more successful for the listener if the piece is shorter and more immediate than if the palindrome is stretched over a longer period of time.
It is simply easier to hear in short batches than to follow and remember longer musical sections.
At one period in my life I wrote whole bunches of these pieces; palindromes for violin, piano, voice, etc. I even wrote an entire orchestral work for double orchestra that was completely palindromic. (It was just too much! Two much?)
Oh - one more thing. You will no doubt hear "My Country Tis Of Thee" at the end of the piece. It seems to wrap it up nicely for me, compositionally. Why is it there? Well, the entire piece before it is really a new harmonization of the famous tune stretched out and done in a poly-metrical organization. (You'll hear it poke through at various other times in the piece as well.)
We're down to the second last day of this blog series and I have had a fabulous time of it! I have met some terrific people through this forum and I have learned a great deal about me as a composer.
Tomorrow, February 28, 2010, is the last day of the blog. In some ways I am thrilled that February only has twenty-eight days, but, in many other ways I am definitely going to miss the time deadlines, the three-am recording sessions and the listener feedback.
One more day to go!
Tomorrow? What I hope is a special way to end this series.
Robert Ian Winstin
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