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Alvin Singleton
7 min

Alvin Singleton’s Cinque is an early work for solo piano, its title meaning “five” in Italian. The five referred to are its five brief essays in sound and texture, taking the ear on many contrasting adventures. Number One is light, elegant, and dancerly and features short single notes popping up all over the keyboard. Number Two is erected over rumbling, trilling bottom-feeding notes. And above these are a series of singer-like treble lines which grow and coagulate into an explosion. Number Three features silence, moreso even than sound, creating an atmosphere of great suspense. This little piece is almost “not there at all.” Number Four is like a fireworks display of loud, almost hysterical single pitches popping all across the piano…no silence here. And then attached is Number Five which features soft long tones cut through by contrasted loud explosive chords.

All in all, Cinque is a small, short work whose sections depend upon each other for the special power that contrast gives. Cinque plays “big”in its aspirations and execution and takes the listener on a long sonic journey indeed. It is dated 1969.

– Carman Moore (2017)

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