Writing for Andree-Ann Deschenes' CD Wanderings

I love the freedom of composing for my own projects, but receiving commissions has always helped me stretch my ideas and get out of my comfort zone. As soon as I receive a commission, I begin immersing myself into that ensemble sound, researching the repertoire and studying the characteristics and techniques of the instruments involved. A lot of music listening happens before I sit down to write anything. 

Sometimes the commission comes with specific guidelines: theme, style, duration, mood, timeline, etc. All of these parameters affect the writing process, as I narrow down the infinite compositional possibilities into a piece of music that both suits the ensemble and is true to my voice as a composer. Oftentimes, people will request that I write a “Brazilian piece,” which is my natural musical habitat, but I am cautious not the allow myself to be put “in a box”. One thing I learned early on in my life was to be an eclectic listener, and as a result, I knew that my compositions should reflect the broadness of my musical taste. In other words, I write what I enjoy listening to, whatever it may be. 

In February of 2022, I received an email from Canadian pianist Andree-Ann Deschenes, who wanted to commission solo piano pieces that would eventually become a CD. I believe I was the second composer contacted for the project – the first one was my friend Kerry Politzer, excellent pianist, composer, and educator based in Portland, Oregon. Soon, five other fantastic Brazilian composers joined the project: Jovino Santos Neto, Jasnam Daya Singh, Bianca Gismonti, Carmen Sandim, and André Mehmari! It was clear that this was going to be an exciting project!

The beautiful thing about this commission is that, at least in that initial stage, Andree-Ann wasn’t quite sure what she wanted the project to be. “This project is still pretty much a vague idea,” she said at the time. She expected my piece to be 7-8 minutes in length, and that was pretty much the only parameter discussed. As far as I can tell, she didn’t even request “Brazilian pieces” from any of these Brazilian composers! It was great to have freedom to write, and none of us knew what the others were writing. Additionally, we knew we were writing for an outstanding pianist, so we could do whatever we wanted without any technical concerns. All in all, her “vague idea” took shape very organically, and it led to the creation of a very satisfying and stylistically diverse solo piano album called Wanderings (2024). 

This is a music video featuring the first movement of my piece “Andanças:”

I composed my set -- a 3-movement piece called Andanças – in the Summer of 2022.  For this piece, I improvised at the piano for a few minutes every day while recording each improvisation session on my phone. The next day, I’d listen to the previous day’s recording and find something to further develop. Then, I’d do the same thing the next day: 8 measures turning into 16, then getting stuck for a while; eventually, after “wandering” for a few days, the music starts to write itself. This process seemed like the best way to write an introspective piece, with a natural and unhurried flow, as a reflection of that particular time in my musical path.

Andree-Ann’s project grew immensely since that first conversation – including the production of a documentary -- thanks to her impeccable piano performance, vision, and careful production. The compositions by Kerry, Jovino, Jasnam, Carmen, Bianca, and Andre are absolutely stunning! I highly recommend that you check out Wanderings, to which I have been lucky to contribute. 

CD Wanderings:

Purchase: Bandcamp
Streaming: Spotify

Obrigado!

-Cassio 

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