glittering pop-infused étude
—The New York Times


\ˈbil-i-ˌtüd\ n., 1 a state of mind or feeling experienced when playing Billy Joel's piano licks. 2 a composition built on a technical foundation formed by Billy Joel's piano licks.

bill-y-tude was commissioned by Nicholas Phillips with funds from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Academic Affairs Division.

The premiere recording is available on New Focus Recordings’ American Vernacular: New Music for Piano, Nicholas Phillips, piano. (FCR 144)
[Digital copies are also available through iTunes and amazon MP3.]

Listen below.

Score now available for purchase HERE


Out on the plains on the fifteenth night of the moon, at the time of sunset, looking to the west, you see the sun at a moment just resting right on the horizon. And if you look there to the east, the moon will be in the same position on the eastern horizon … And so this also is part of the mythology of the body: the body going through its inevitable course – the long body [from birth to death].
—Joseph Campbell from The Way of Art.
When people sing ... I enter the earth. I go in at a place like a place where people drink water. I travel a long way, very far. When I emerge, I am already climbing. I'm climbing threads, the threads that lie over there in the south. I climb one and leave it, then I climb another one. Then I leave it and climb another. . . . And when you arrive at God's place, you make yourself small. You have become small. You come in small to God's place. You do what you have to do there. Then you return to where everyone is, and you hide your face. You hide your face so you won't see anything. You come and come and come and finally you enter your body again. All the people who have stayed behind are waiting for you. … You enter, enter the earth, and you return to enter the skin of your body ... Then you begin to sing.
—Joseph Campbell in The Way of the Animal Powers describing a transformational journey as told by a !KUNG bushman.

Program Note

I built my piano [and musical] ground floor upon the stones laid by Billy Joel and Elton John. To this very day, when I hear Falling of the Rain or Laura, I can't help but picture a 16 year old me banging away on an out of tune upright.

The Cold Spring Harbor and Streetlife Serenader albums introduced me to the rockabilly piano fills from the 50s and early 60s. These rockabilly fills are all over those albums and I learned quickly that I could throw one into almost any tune and get some smiles. My version of this type of fill takes center-stage in this etude and when the figure combines with some flying octaves that would make Liszt blush, it quickly moves into late night, totally badass piano thumping country.

Something tells me my 16 year old self would approve.