[Ben Phelps looks at a crane]
works > Chamber music- standard > Sometimes I feel like my time ain't long

Sometimes I feel like my time ain't long

For piano and electronics

2017. 30 minutes. Written for pianist Vicky Ray.

Gospel spiritual.
In nine exponentially expanding movements.
Tenth movement, for piano and chamber ensemble, TBD.

Sometimes I Feel Like My Time Ain't Long is an exponentially expanding, time-stretched set of variations. The solo piano accompanies an early sound recording by John A. Lomax held at the Library of Congress. The source material is a simple gospel tune sung a cappella. What begins as a 20 second verse is eventually stretched into a 30 minute movement. As the original recording is stretched over longer and longer periods of time, what originally sounded as a single note becomes complex multitudes of pitches. We start to notice all the microtonal imperfections in the original performance: the tension between the microtonal complexity of the vocal lines and fixed equal-temperament of the piano are explored, as is our very perception of musical time.

The original gospel tune, of unknown origin, was recorded in 1939 in the home of Ben Robertson in Clemson, South Carolina and is held in the Library of Congress's American Folklike Center audio archives, now digitized. It was recorded on John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip as part of New Deal funding efforts to support the documentation and archiving of American Folk Music. The performers are: Brady Walker, William Grant, Mary Lee, Thomas Trimmer, and Phil Butler.

View a sample of the score.

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