Written for pianist Valentina Pravodelov, In Detail is a response to the first four of Olivier Messiaen’s Vingt Régards sur l’Enfant Jésus, the opening pieces of a programme of solo piano works focused on religious and mystical subject matter. The programme also included Sofia Gubaidulina’s Toccata Troncata and Liszt’s Funerailles, as well as music by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev.
Valentina asked for a meditative piece that would be less than three minutes long. I deliberately took a linear approach to contrast with the strong harmonic bias of the other works on the programme and present a different type of meditation.
In Detail also has roots in a visual art piece, Maps of Seville, that I created for another (unfinished) work. It has a completely different feel from the artwork – especially texturally! – but relates to the detail view – up close, even bold straight lines display a mass of irregularities.
The title relates to the saying “God is in the detail” and refers to the need for the pianist to focus on tiny details of sonority, duration, touch and rhythmic angularity and instability. Notes of unspecified duration allow the pianist to adapt the piece according to the needs of their programme, the size of the venue, and the nature of the instrument available.