for solo piano

Ernst Bacon

Painting by the composer, circa 1935

Places is a collection of 10 short pieces for solo piano by 20th-century American composer Ernst Bacon. Some of them, as well as many of Bacon's numerous other piano compositions, were inspired by Bacon's travels to lesser known geographic locations.

Contemporary and accessible, these pieces are suitable for pianists at beginning and intermediate levels (or beyond).

Select the titles below to learn more about the pieces and click the sound wave icons to listen to them.

Fog Over Calais  |  Gnaw Bone, Indiana  |  Finger Lake Hills  |  Auxerre  |  Cañon de Chelly  |  Mozart Haus in Salzburg  |  Fording the Chama River  |  Ruwenzori  |  Yemassee River, South Carolina  |  Petticoat Slide, Tennessee

View a sample page from the score.

Fog Over Calais

Calais, France was formerly a medieval walled city surrounded by moats until bombings in World War II. A major seaport situated on the English Channel coast, Calais can frequently be fogged over.

The melancholy harmonies and the continuous half step pattern in the inner voice suggest an uninterrupted heavy mist winding its way around the streets of the city and a touch of mystery.

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Gnaw Bone, Indiana

Photographs by Lori Bernard   Located in the wooded rolling hills of south central Indiana, Gnaw Bone is a small community where you can find local specialties such as persimmon pudding, apple butter, and black walnut fudge. It is also home to the Brown County Sorghum Mill where local sugar cane is turned into molasses.

As the spirited tune of Gnaw Bone, Indiana builds to a crescendo and then fades as it comes to a close, you could imagine approaching, passing through, and departing this small burg.

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Finger Lake Hills

5275367 © John Anderson |   The Finger Lakes region, located in west central New York State, is known for its 11 finger-shaped lakes, its rolling hills, and its wineries. According to American Indian folklore, the lakes were formed when "God placed his hand on some of the most beautiful land ever created."

Finger Lake Hills, with a gently rising and falling melodic line like the gentle rise and fall of the hills around the Finger Lakes, has two simple, single-line parts that can be performed by a beginning pianist.

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Painting by Julia Stout-Nelson   Overlooking the Yonne River, Auxerre is one of the larger cities in the Burgundy section of France. Many of its cobblestone streets are lined with half-timbered cottages, and it is home to the Gothic cathedral Saint Etienne, built between the 13th and the 16th centuries.

Auxerre, with its graceful melody in triple time that takes unusual turns, evokes the charm of the city and at the same time interesting or surprising things found along the way.

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Cañon de Chelly

5548165 © Uros Ravbar |   Cañon de Chelly, established as a national monument in 1931, comprises 3 canyons of sheer red cliffs with 700 ruins dating from 350 to 1300 when it was inhabited by the Anasazi Indians.

Cañon de Chelly's overlapping harmonies suggest the blending of colors and changing light on the cliffs; and in the middle section with slowly rising chords, you can imagine gazing up at the towering canyon walls.

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Mozart Haus in Salzburg

Photograph by Petr Kratochvil |   Situated in the foothills of the Alps on the Salzach River, Salzburg is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Well known for its many churches and other striking examples of Baroque architechture, the fully preserved Hohensalzburg Fortress (built in 1150), and the Salzburg Music Festival, Salzburg is also famous as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1756.

Mozart Haus in Salzburg incorporates features of the Classical Period style with a variation on the repeated arpeggiated accompaniment ("Alberti bass"), balanced phrases, and melodic embellishment.

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Fording the Chama River

Photograph by Chuck Klingsporn   The Chama River Canyon, with its colorful sandstone bluffs rising along both sides, is located in northern New Mexico. The area was formerly a trade center for the Plains and Pueblo Indians, and has been a place of inspiration for many artists, notably Georgia O'Keefe.

The continual alternating 3/4 and 6/8 eighth note rhythmic pattern in Fording the Chama River suggests the constant rippling of the water.

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Photograph by Galen Frysinger   The Ruwenzori mountains are located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in east central Africa. They contain the numerous large lakes, as well as abundant and varied plant, bird, and animal life. The higher peaks, reaching over 16,000 feet, are glaciated and frequently shrouded in mist, giving them a quality of mystery. Ruwenzori means "Rainmaker", and the range has also been referred to for many centuries as the "Mountains of the Moon".

Ruwenzori uses an octatonic scale, and, Like Finger Lake Hills, is in two single-line parts, but like the massive Ruwenzori Mountains, it covers a wide range from low to high.

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Yemassee River, South Carolina

Photograph by Scott Leonard   The title Yemassee River, South Carolina represented artistic license on the part of the composer since there is no river by that exact name in South Carolina. There is however the Combahee River, which runs very close to the town of Yemassee (with a tributary leading to it), and this is no doubt the river to which Bacon was referring. The Combahee River, located in the South Carolina low country, and part of the now-protected ACE Basin, is an area of abundant bird and wildlife, flowers, trees, and thickly hanging Spanish moss. The name "Yemassee" refers to the Yemassee Indian tribe which inhabited the area from the late 1600's to the early 1700's. In 1715, the Yemassee rose up against the British for unfair trade practices, encroachment on their land, and mistreatment, but were defeated and forced to flee to Florida.

The easy-going languid feel of Yemassee River, South Carolina is reminiscent of a hot sultry day in the South Carolina low country. The tune is taken from a spiritual song.

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Petticoat Slide, Tennessee

No place called "Petticoat Slide" actually exists in Tennessee, although there is a crossroads in Hawkins County that was formerly called "Slide" (named for a particularly steep road). There was also a country dance that was popular in Tennessee called the "Slide", similar to the Virgina Reel, in which ladies in long dresses would skip from one end of the dance line to the other by holding up their dresses to keep from tripping over them, which allowed their petticoats to show and to slide or sweep over the floor. It's likely, from indications in the music, that the title Petticoat Slide, Tennessee originates from the dance, which Bacon must have seen when traveling in Tennessee.

Petticoat Slide, Tennessee includes several smoothly connected musical sections, suggesting different parts of the dance. And the sliding is represented in various phrases throughout including the opening bars.

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