Program music, or music that tells a story, can be a wonderful thing. The structure of most narrative has a certain dramatic form that has become pleasing. But I also find when some composers cover a not-so-successful piece with a tear-jerking story, the piece’s deficiencies are lessened. To be shamefully honest, I have done this a number of times. When I did, it was not because of a failure of the piece, but because I felt that my audience wanted it. After struggling with this for a while, I came to a realization: I really love the ideal of absolute music.
Writing a piece of music with no specific story, just an arrangement of pitches, sounds, etc., is romantically idealistic. Triskadekatet is the first of a number of pieces that strive for that romantic ideal. Once the instrumentation, which I modeled from Shoulder to Shoulder by Steve Martland, was fixed, I felt as if I could just write without the extra-musical bells and whistles that come with program music. It became such an excitingly freeing experience to write music using music’s own systems of drama: tension/release, dissonance/consonance, etc.