Parts Unknown


     In its principal colloquial meaning, "parts unknown" refers to an unknown destination. Most likely it is a bureaucratic term, coined to fill a blank in some form which requests precise information which is, in fact, unavailable. Outside of this particular context, however, the phrase has always appealed to me because of the multiplicity of its possible interpretations: first because of the freedom and adventure that a sentence such as "they left for parts unknown" suggests - the sense of unrestricted movement which it implies, of exploration and last minute decisions, of whimsy and improvisation; secondly because, read in a different light, "parts unknown" implies an unbroken continuity, a seamless whole which is so fully integrated that it is impossible to subdivide into sections - be it a unit of musical thought or of sustained emotion; and thirdly because "parts unknown" might also refer to unidentified ingredients - elements which are beyond our powers to analyze or categorize yet which, for some reason, make all the difference in the success - or failure - of everything from cooking, to music, to love.

     Parts Unknown was begun in 1989 and completed in 1991. It is articulated in 12 sections. These sections are collected in 2 groups lasting approximately 30 minutes each. Although there was no specific extra-musical program in my mind while composing Parts Unknown, it is also true that I selected the notes as much for their dramatic potential as for their structural possibilities. Each piece has a clearly defined emotional character and I found that, when I came to creating the large structure, ordering these characters into a larger sequence, a strong sense of dramatic consequence developed among them - as if each piece were a scene in a dramatic work which, though divided in parts, was nevertheless an unbroken, emotional whole.

     In this sense, then, Parts Unknown is first of all a dramatic construction - a drama, a rhythm of emotions. In it, composition and story telling are one and the same, and, as in my musique concrète works, any musical ingredient - material, gesture or style - which serves the dramatic purpose is freely used to sustain and underscore that drama.

Richard Trythall


1. Prologue

2. Soliloquy

3. Intermezzo

4. Toccata

5. Adagio

6. Allegro


7. Waltz

8. Fantasy

9. Etude

10. Senza Tempo

11. Melodrama

12. Night Rider


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