Cartwheels (2004) by Dan Senn

Program Notes

In 1953, Robert Rauschenberg walked to the home of Willem De Kooning and explained to the artist that he would like to make a piece based on the erasure of one of his drawings. He was willing to trade a bottle of Jack Daniels for a such piece. De Kooning, a famous abstract expressionist painter, did not like the idea but consented and gave the young artist something that was especially difficult to erase. Today, "Erased De Kooning" by Robert Rauschenberg, which took the artist an entire month to erase, is worth more than any of De Kooning's paintings. I should be so lucky.

In 2004, I was commission by Sylvia Smith Publications, Baltimore, to write a work for the odd combination of piccolo and orchestra bells that would be part of a collection of such pieces. About that time I was listening to lots of music by Elliot Carter, a favorite composer of mine, and while listening to a duet of his, I made a spontaneous quick graphic drawing of the entire work as it was playing. Since I had not written a traditionally scored work for over 10 years, preferring graphic notations instead, this kind of sound sketching came natural to me. Then the idea occurred to me to re-compose the de-composed Carter work, which I had heard only once or twice, based on this drawing using traditional notation. And this is how Cartwheels came into being, a piece which bears only atavistic resemblances to the original Carter work--an "erased Carter" of sorts.

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