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Pet Tales

24 Pieces for Viola Accompanied by Piano or Synthesized Sound plus Photography
Featured on PBS "Nature" Series 2009
80 minutes | 2006-2008
Score 71 pages

Recorded on CD & DVD by Julie Roy

"Snuggles the Dog"
"Herman the Frog"
"Kip the Dog"
"Twitter the Parakeet"
"Keyo the Dog"
"Buford the Cat"
"Daisy the Dog"
"Button the Cat"
"Ozzie the Koala"
"Clementine the Cat"
"Boomer the Dog"
"Freddie the Raccoon"
"Tinkerbell the Cat"
"Merlin the Dog"
"Skipper the Dog"
"Friskie the Lamb"
"Prince the Dog"
"Peeve the Cat"
"Tommy the Cat"
"Orpheus the Dove"
"Jaws the Fish"
"Smoky the Cat"
"Toucan Ken the Pig"
"Thunder the Dog"

Viola / Piano Version Available

The viola and a lot of cute animals are the stars of this upbeat program. An entire concert unto itself, this jazzy musical and visual extravaganza consists of twenty-four affectionate portraits of animals that touched the composer’s life. Nine dogs of various species are depicted, seven cats, two birds, and one each of raccoon, fish, frog, pig, koala, and lamb. Though often whimsical and light-hearted, the music also addresses the pathos and loss that are inevitable when dealing with family members that have a shorter life span.

Shifting key centers or tonalities reflect the ephemeral nature of life for these creatures. There is a preponderance of compound meters (6/8, 9/8) because of their association with freedom, gaiety, and innocence, and these energetic pieces flit from idea to idea with a minimum of development. Ranging in length from 1 1/2 to 5 minutes, the pieces exhibit heavily syncopated rhythms reminiscent of American popular, Asian, and Middle Eastern musics.

These viola pieces can be presented in a variety of ways, and animal portraits can be done individually or in smaller groups. There are two formats for the accompaniment: it can be performed live on piano (there is a conventional viola / piano score), or it can be rendered on a multi-channel sound system by CD or DVD containing synthesized sounds. Furthermore, the DVD edition contains visuals of the animals, which can be projected or displayed on screen(s) or large monitors, and the visual material also includes commentary pertaining to each animal’s life and personality. (The piano version can make use of the visuals without the synthesized sounds.) And finally, the viola can be amplified for presentation in large venues.

This work joins J. S. Bach’s "Well-Tempered Klavier" and Paul Hindemith’s "Ludus Tonalis" as collections of twenty-four pieces employing all of the existing keys in our tuning system. However, because of the jazzy, chromatic nature of this work, it sometimes is more difficult to determine key. Only a few of the pieces stay with the same tonal center from beginning to end, and many of them are so chromatic that it is impossible to say they are major or minor; more correctly, they are major-minor. Consequently, there are twelve pieces where the tonal centers at the BEGINNING and twelve pieces where the tonal centers at the END correspond to the twelve notes of the chromatic scale.

Because of the international rhythms, intriguing synthesized sounds, universal subject matter, and entertaining visuals, this lively work can appeal to a large cross-section of people. There also is an element of sociological and psychological impact regarding the role of pets in our lives, but the overall mood is fun!