Performed at Iowa University 12/15/13
Composed by Peter Kramer

A piece in four continuous sections, the whole of which is inspired by the idea of the 16th and 17th century prelude, toccata, ricercar and a multitude of other freely improvised keyboard forms. These forms frequently employed displays of manual dexterity, were often freely composed based on idiomatic playing techniques. This sort of improvisational approach to the keyboard was also a way in which the performer could “warm up” on their instrument, loosen their fingers, and get to know the sound of the performance space itself.
Tastar de corde (“testing the strings”) was a term used in the 16th century for short introductory pieces such as the toccata or the tiento, as it was known in Spain. The etymology for the word toccata perhaps comes from a 14th century term associated with military flourishes and signals known as a tuck or tucket. During the early 17th century the tucket was later replaced by the form chiamata (meaning "a call"), a loosely organized trumpet fanfare on a single chord used as an “alarm” signal. The tucket and chiamata both represent sounds used for long distance communication, a source for contact outside of the proximity of the performers themselves. A “signal”, defined as anything that serves to warn, command, or gesture, brings the idea of virtuosic movement in improvised renaissance keyboard music back full circle.
The mechanism of a harpsichord, the act of removing jacks, of turning registers on and off, coupling the instrument and activating the keyboard can achieve a similar affect. The art of improvisation is alive in the instrument itself. The moving parts and the virtuosity of its construction allow a listener to experience a world that is in part a source outside the proximity of his or her self, while collectively a gesture towards termination or that of continuation is achieved.

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