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Dark and Stormy Night
for piano with ping pong balls and obligato page turner

Full Orchestra
String Orchestra
Wind Ensemble
Solo Instrumental

   The title, “Dark and Stormy Night,” is borrowed from the famous opening line of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1830 novel, Paul Clifford. The phrase has taken on a life of its own, but in the case of this composition, it simply refers to the stormy nature of the music. In order to augment the piano's sound, an unusual technique is employed – the addition of ping pong balls inside the piano. Their effect on the piano's tone is evident from the opening gesture, a violent strumming of the bass strings on top of which six balls have been placed. In live performance, the visual aspect of the ping pong balls is not to be ignored, as they jump and bounce into the air, set in motion by the vibration of the strings. Due to the unpredictable nature of the ping pong balls' movement, the composition calls for an obligato page turner that assists with moving balls into and out of the piano. Structurally the piece consists of cycling three musical ideas – a slow and mysterious chord progression, a twelve-tone row, and a raucous virtuosic passage. Moments of tempestuous insanity lapse into states of eerie calm. In the last few seconds, the page turner dumps hundreds of ping pong balls in the piano, bringing the piece to a chaotic close.

   This has been performed by a number of pianists including by Alessio Bax in Lexington, KY in August 2010. The premiere of this work was by Grace Zhao at the University of Southern California in 2007. This piece has also been performed by Stephen Gosling and Kayako Matsunaga. Ms. Matsunaga, whose performance can be seen below, released this work's debut recording in 2012.

   Duration: ca. 8'. View a sample of the score here.

I am currently self-published. You may purchase this piece using the button below. Note that ping pong balls must be ordered separately. If you need a quote for a purchase order, please contact me.

Price: $21

Copyright © by Roger Zare Music, ASCAP. All Rights Reserved.