Sonata V (Sonata Dada)

Duration: 8:00
Date of Composition: 1985
Recording by Anthony de Mare on CRI: CRI CD 869
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PROGRAM NOTES: Although I didn’t realize it while composing Sonata Dada (Sonata V), the work takes its departure from middle-early John Cage (The Seasons) and the tonal Virgil Thomson (many songs).  Cage and Thomson may seem like an odd pair (they were!), but there is a lot of Satie in both of them, and, indeed, there is more than a whiff of Satie in Sonata Dada.  In fact, Sonata Dada has much in common with my Satie Sat at Tea, for viola and piano.

 What makes the present work “Dada” is its persistent self-contradiction.  It puts up an ambitious air, but the musical gestures are compromised by their plainness.  Virtually every “serious” music gesture is interrupted; continuity comes only in short bits.  It should be a lark, a frolic, exactly what a SONATA is not supposed to be.  I would describe it as serious fun, or funny seriousness.  Dada, after all, embodied a critical stance, as is the case here – criticism of the oftentimes overly-serious sonata form.       

-James Sellars