In The Tides I Break

Year composed: 2017

Instrumentation: piano solo

Duration (approx.): 7′


Commissioned by Portland Piano International with generous support of a Creative Heights grant from the Fred W. Fields Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation.

Premiered by Elisabeth Tsai at Artist’s Repertory Studio on July 13th, 2017.



Henry Cowell’s Tides of Manaunaun is a wonderful bridge between past and present. Manaunaun, I think, is an elegant example of the power of juxtaposition. There’s a simple folk-like melody of Cowell’s invention played above surging, wave-like clusters that grow and recede over the course of just three and a half minutes. This simple yet powerful contradistinction was so great that, after hearing Cowell perform the work, Bela Bartok asked if he could borrow Cowell’s tone clusters for his own work. I myself was left in a stunned silence after when I heard this piece for the first time.

My composition, In The Tides I Break, is a single-movement extension of the bridge that Cowell set up. It’s a “companion” piece which was written very conscientiously; I wanted to write a piece that could be performed alongside Cowell’s Manaunaun while also being able to stand on its own. There are a couple fragments taken from Manaunaun alongside my own set of harmonies that lay the groundwork for Tides. As with Manaunaun, opposites meet here. Harmony begins highly verticalized and played with lots of repetition and unpredictable rhythms. As the piece progresses harmony is eventually broken into fragments in the form of delicate, crystalline arpeggios, out of which Cowell’s melody emerges.

Copyright © Jay Derderian Music Publishing (ASCAP), 2018. All Rights Reserved.


By Jay

Composer, guitarist, husband, father, pun enthusiast.

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