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In the summer of 2000, I conceived an idea to write Three Pieces for Solo Cello that might musically reflect something of the powerful and historic African American experience. I thought that the cello might be especially well-suited to express the vernacular manner of musical speech and rhythmic inflection that characterize this most important “root-source” of American music.

The second movement, Pickin’, refers both to the art of banjo pickin’ and the act of picking cotton itself. In this piece I also tried to capture some of the energy and drive of the old “side-slap” and “shoe-slap” dances that brought forth a natural exuberance that couldn’t be quelled by the blanket of oppression.

— John Williams