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Mother Suite, by Matthew McClung. Dino Mulic, piano.
Matthew McClung

Mother Suite, by Matthew McClung. Dino Mulic, piano.

1. Morning Invention 2. Ostinato Train Ride 3. Cubicle Rag 4. Chardonnay Nocturne These short pieces were written for my mother on her 70th birthday. From the time I was five years old, I can remember her waking up early every morning and taking a 1-hour train ride into Chicago, where she worked for an architectural firm, then a real estate firm, and then for a branch of the American Medical Association. She retired in 2013 after working for over 30 years. She loved working in downtown Chicago, and on many occasions she dragged her reluctant children with her to visit the Art Institute or the Field Museum or Marshall Fields, which was a grand old department store. Although she has more than earned her retirement and loves being at home, I knew she would miss her daily routine on some level. So I wrote this suite to remind her what her day was like, or at least how I imagined it to be. My mother is a fine amateur pianist, and these were written for her to play, but I’m not a pianist and apparently they are quite tricky. Fortunately I was able to convince my talented and accommodating colleague Dino Mulic to look at them. I had hoped to have him read them through once or twice, but he has decided to perform them in public, for which I am simultaneously grateful and terrified. The pieces are each modeled after specific composers or genres. The first, Morning Invention, is a two-part invention in the style of J. S. Bach, though it starts with a decidedly non-Baroque alarm clock. One can hear first my mother, and then my stepfather awaken and stagger around the kitchen, grunting and making coffee. Morning Ostinato is her train ride, which often began in the dark. I have taken this ride many times myself, and there is a hypnotic repetitiveness to it that is well suited to the minimalist and post-minimalist styles of Steve Reich and Phillip Glass (composers that I favor, though she decidedly does not). It begins in a semi-rural landscape, hurtles through a number of small towns, and eventually rolls into the majestic skyline of downtown Chicago. The Cubicle Rag is meant to reflect the disjointed, hectic pace of a bustling office space in the big city, in the style of Scott Joplin. My mother would want listeners to know that she had her own office, NOT a cubicle. I claim artistic license. Our day ends with the Chardonnay Nocturne. As a child, I can remember listening to her practice Chopin after I had gone to bed (and occasionally asking her to keep it down!) To this day, Chopin reminds me of being tucked into my tiny bed in my tiny room, in our little old house in a small town, the two of us ending our day with the shared pleasure of music.
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