Posts Tagged ‘piano’
Mabel Kwan is a Chicago-based pianist who specializes in contemporary music. She is a frequent musical collaborator, with projects ranging from a series of commissions for the toy piano to her duo with percussionist Andrew Bliss, Nothing in Common. She is also a member of Ensemble Dal Niente who are currently undertaking Georg Friedrich Haas’ in vain for their upcoming concert at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago. Prior to this concert, Kwan will be performing Haas’ Trois Hommages at the PianoForte Salon. Haas’ piece, dedicated to composers György Ligeti, Josef Mattias Hauer, and Steve Reich, calls for one pianist to play on two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart. I spoke to Kwan about the composer and preparing for her upcoming performances.
What has been your experience of practicing on two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart? Has it been disorienting or did you find yourself adjusting fairly quickly? You also have performing experience in the prepared piano repertoire; are there any similarities between practicing these two methods?
I got used to the sound pretty quickly, but the physicality and fatigue of being stretched out between two pianos and having your hands at an awkward angle on the keys hasn’t gotten less uncomfortable. Still, it’s fun and awesome to get to play two pianos at once and to hear the notes between the keys.
I’d say practicing prepared piano is a bit different because each note in a prepared piano piece has its own sound. In this Haas piece with two pianos, each printed note is associated with two pitches, and that can throw you off visually and aurally, especially in the second movement where it’s all scalar.
Photo by Nelson Fitch
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This is a review that I hadn’t intended to write. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Bruce Brubaker perform live a few times before. When he emailed me that he was coming to Denver for a January 22, 2013 concert at the Newman Center and had a comp ticket waiting for me, I had planned on simply enjoying the evening. I wasn’t worried about a review because I wasn’t sure what I might add to the vast amount of ink and pixels from the finest sources that have already been devoted this artist. And yet, within the first minute of his program, I was already mentally writing this review. If this review is worthwhile, it might be because it is from the perspective of a pianist who has also devoted himself to similar repertoire. But really, this performance was about seeing a fantastic artist completely in his element, and regardless of the medium, that should be enough for you to know that it was an incredible evening.
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Jenny Q Chai is a pianist currently based in New York, where she is receiving her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Manhattan School of Music. She has premiered new works by composers such as John Slover, Niles Vigeland, and Ashely Fu-Tsun Wang. As an advocate of contemporary music, Chai serves on the board of New York City’s Ear to Mind organization which regularly promotes and programs new music. She also spends much of her time in Shanghai, where she founded FaceArt Music InterNations to help foster an exchange of contemporary music with China. I spoke to Chai about her work, including her latest project, “Dissecting Stroppa,” in which the pianist will deliver a theatrical lecture-recital on composer Marco Stroppa’s “Innige Cavatina.”
Is “Dissecting Stroppa” just a lecture-recital or do you consider the entire presentation a performance?
I definitely do consider the entire presentation a performance. A lecture-recital for me is all tied together, just as there’s a “-” between the two words. As long as a person steps on a stage to present something, to me that is a performance.
I’m also weaving a little bit of theatrical elements into a usually academic performance. Because for me, Stroppa, and my former teacher Pierre-Laurent Aimard—and many artists I’m sure—music is about the everything we experience.
Jenny Q Chai
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Let’s play a word association game. If I say, “prepared piano,” many of you might think “John Cage.” Yes, John Cage was a pioneer for prepared piano, and yes, Sonatas and Interludes becomes an almost inevitable comparison when discussing any prepared piano composition, but I only mention Cage because I don’t want you to think about him. (I realize, of course, that’s like saying, “Don’t think of a honey badger.”)
The problem with comparing Eleven Short Stories to Cage is that while the basic instrument is the same(ish), the end results are anything but. If you listen to this album with Cage as your expectation, you will be confused at best and incorrectly disappointed at worst. Cage’s prepared piano is exotic, percussive, and somewhat esoteric. It is high art in the best sense. Erdem Helvacioğlu’s prepared piano is electronic, quasi-minimalistic, and highly accessible. This is more a pop album, also in the best sense.
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Classical guitar is a pain in the ass. The way you’re meant to sit: weird/humiliating. The disparity between left and right hand technique: completely frustrating. Reading guitar music at sight: laughably annoying. And, perhaps most maddening: trying to project to a point at which an audience can actually hear you once you get all those other things to jibe. Maybe these reasons are why the instrument is so often neglected in the realm of chamber music, and furthermore, maybe that’s why there’s such a preciously tiny handful of classical guitarists that have broken the boundary into composition and true musicianship – because so few of us have the facility to deal with our own instrument, let alone communicate with or through other ones. That is why seeing David Leisner perform alongside pianist and compadre Jon Klibonoff as part of Symphony Space’s Guitar Plus series marked, for me, a kind of breakthrough. Apart from Leisner’s amazing facility that showed the guitar can definitely hang with arguably the most important instrument in the history of western music, his original composition for piano solo proved that classical guitarists can be legitimate musical thinkers with the ability to range out of the cramped knot that is them and their instrument and into a world of sound and color that points towards totally new directions.
David Leisner – Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
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Twitter has surprised me. I initially was one of the skeptics, assuming that the 140 character limit would lead to a further degradation of the English language and perpetuate the epidemic that is our declining attention span. I joined at the request of my wife almost three years ago and, much to my dismay, realized I was entirely wrong. I’ve had serious conversations through this medium and met people for drinks in cities around the world. The connections I’ve made have been remarkable, and I once again find myself indebted to a twitter algorithm for suggesting I follow Adrian Knight (@adrian_knight_).
Knight is a Swedish composer residing in NYC, and runs “the smallest record label in the word,” Pink Pamphlet. My initial impression from the music on his website (adrian-knight.com) was to wonder why I hadn’t heard about him before; I felt like I was late in getting to know a fantastic composer. His music struck me immediately and has only become more interesting the more I listen. Moving between acoustic and electronic music (and combinations thereof), he is not afraid to explore musical ideas at length, but at the same time the sense of pacing is spot on. His music has been described as “eerie,” “mesmerizing,” and “serene,” but to these descriptors I would add “stunning.”
Adrian Knight – Time of My Life
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