Michel van der Aa / Works / 

Just Before

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Just Before was composed shortly after the ‘Preposition Trilogy’, and is audibly related to it, although it is in principle an independent work. The close chords and woodpecker-like ostinati are the notable features it shares with the preceding work. As in all of Van der Aa’s compositions, the material for the soundtrack was derived from the instrument itself. If one listens with eyes closed it might appear as if the pianist is tampering with the instrument’s interior, but in reality her activities remain confined to the keyboard itself.

Just Before is like a rubber band one stretches out and allows to spring back in different directions. This stretching-out takes the form of a slowly rising riff that opens the piece. The soundtrack then produces the first recoil. This is followed by a quiet, descending, almost diatonic motive, offsetting the agitated, dissonant opening, an echo of which lingers on in the soundtrack. The theme blurs, getting stuck in repetitive notes, and then regains momentum, gradually rising in pitch. It thus initiates a new tension curve, this time in combination with a burst of electronic sounds. Once the elastic band is drawn taut again, the music settles into a compulsive woodpecker pattern with clusters marking the very limits of the register. Once again there is an abrupt return to calm, and again the lyrical theme appears, but it almost immediately runs amok, and another hammered ostinato takes it to a third climax. The piece concludes with low, humming chords. The rubber band has lost its elasticity, the piano has reached its highest notes and the pianist allows the soundtrack to take over.
— Frits van der Waa


for piano and soundtrack

Soundtrack (from CD)




First performance

8 October 2000
Cheltenham Festival, Cheltenham, United Kingdom

Commissioned by

Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst


Boosey & Hawkes


Last performance

21 November 2022

Just Before

Sentieri selvaggi. Andrea Rebaudengo, piano

Conservatorio, Mantova, Italy

All performances of Just Before


Tomoko Mukayama, piano