Five Pieces for Organ is the first music I wrote as a freshman at the Eastman School of Music, where I began as a student of Samuel Adler. I donʼt remember exactly why I wanted to write for the instrument, about which I knew almost nothing: perhaps my utter lack of knowledge was the reason, but I suspect that the influence of my first composition teacher, Robert Lau, also played a role. He was and is a fine organist, and these pieces are dedicated to him.
Though Five Pieces for Organ was never intended for liturgical use, I first had it in mind that I would compose a suite of contrasting paired pieces that mimicked slow processionals and fast recessionals. The ultimate suite of fast-slow-fast-slow-fast pieces reflects this. I was interested in writing sharply contrasting pieces, as well, and each piece maintains a relatively clear and singular affect.
As it turns out, writing for the organ in the way I did was (unbeknownst to me at the time) an excellent contrapuntal exercise. Each of the pieces mostly comprises only three independent voices, in the manner of a baroque trio sonata; discovering the huge range of emotional sound that a mere three voices can support was a worthy endeavor. I was aided in this discovery by the registrations found in the score, suggested by the workʼs exceptional premiere performer—Christopher Wicks—a good friend and composer also studying at Eastman at the time.