Silent thunder is a fascinating zoological phenomenon: Elephants are able to communicate with each other through ultra-deep frequencies that are wholly inaudible to us: the other elephants in the same troop can perceive these oscillations even at a distance of 20 kilometres and react to them. This mysterious faculty possessed by animals awakened in me a musical association linked to the wide sound-spectrum of the piano.
At the beginning of the piece thick chords are heard in the lowest part of the keyboard; on account of the multitude of overtones in this register, their pitch is hard for the ear to determine, besides which the notes are made less distinct through continuous pedalling. Nevertheless, these cluster-like blocks of sound conceal a regular harmonic structure, which can be taken as a representation of the hidden signal conveyed by ‘silent thunder’.
This harmonic structure, assembled from different categories of interval, develops in the central section, by means of layers of augmented fifths, into an almost pentatonic sound-world. This colourful episode requires a high level of pianistic virtuosity, lightness and nimbleness, and is entitled “Fantasie”. Before the ‘silent thunder’ returns, this spectacular outgrowth comes to a head, massive blocks of sound forming themselves from different species of interval, which are presented in a hesitant rhythmic fashion and lead back to the secretive, murmuring oscillations in the deep register.
Through the use of silently depressed keys the last section creates a wispy dialogue between the bodies of sound, forming a transparent background. Against this one hears fragments of the previous sections, which impress themselves on the ear by employing extremes of contrasted dynamics and modes of attack, repeatedly punctuating the uneasy silence.
Vienna, August 2011
Translation by Michael Talbot