Category Archives: Solo

Shades of December (2010) for piano

World premiere performance by Jeff LaDeur at UC Santa Cruz Thursday March 12, 2015

“Shades of December” was composed in December 2010 by Nick Vasallo. Dedicated to Camille Chitwood-Harrison and Lea Trinidad. Commissioned by Cameron Harrison.

This piece is a study of both overtones and complementary whole-tones scales. Influenced by Ligeti’s idea of “quasi-equidistant” scalar illusions which, in his mind, created the illusion of non-temperament in an equal tempered setting. The piece oscillates between these two main ideas and in some instances converge momentarily. The title reflects the time in which the piece was composed.

The Abyss (2007) for piano

Performed by Nick Vasallo
Recorded at UC Santa Cruz by Bill Coulter in 2007.
World Premiere: UCSC Composers Guild Concert
Fridays at 4 series
Music Center 131
Friday, Nov. 2 at 4:00pm

Remove any one of our traditional five human senses, and consequently another sense is amplified. This is the sound of infinite darkness…

Back story of the piece: During my first quarter as graduate student composer I attended a concert featuring the work of other graduate student composers. As I sat down I looked at the program and noticed that my name was on it, with “New Work” listed. Obviously, I was completely surprised and had no idea I was programmed. I didn’t have a piece ready let alone know anyone that wanted to perform my work. I ran to the grad composer running the show, John Seales, and asked him how I got on the bill. He apologized for the mistake. As students and faculty trickled in I told John to give me a few minutes to decide what to do. I went into one of the classrooms where I taught Theory and sat at the piano. I didn’t even bother turning on the lights. I decided that I was going to improvise on the piano. Not the way I wanted to debut my work but I improvised a lot back then. I struck a single low note and let it ring, searching for that to do next. Then, it hit me. I knew exactly what to do.
I went back inside and told John to turn off all the lights in the room completely when I gave him the nod. My piece was last. I took one of the dry erase markers from the classroom to perform this work. I stood up at the keys and leaned my right arm inside the piano with my arm drawn. I gave John a nod and he turned off the lights. It was pitch black. I waited for 30 seconds, pressed down on the sustain pedal, and struck all the low strings with the end of the marker with a violent rake.
The mass of sound was huge and I felt the audience draw back in their seats as the wave of sudden sound was shocking. I sat there with the pedal depressed as long as possible, waiting for the mass of sound to slowly and slowly die away to a single eternal frequency and then meld into the noisy silence of a pitch black room. I stood up. Not knowing how to signal the piece was over, I said “I’m done.” To my surprise, the audience erupted in applause.
This moment, in hindsight, had a profound effect on how I came to view structure and the possibilities of creating form.