Throughout the last decade, I have been working with Dan Trueman as a member of So Percussion. A relentless experimenter and exquisite musician, Dan’s music embodies his own unique synthesis of interests: composer, fiddler, programmer, inventor.
The music Dan has written for So Percussion explores these worlds in a jungle of cables, microphones, laptops, and honestly I don’t know what else. He provokes microphone feedback from a concert bass drum, writes Cage-ian quartets in lopsided meters, and tasks us with managing unruly live metronomes.
When he and I first spoke about a solo piece growing out of these projects, we both imagined something similar: woodblocks, drums, and toy instruments with wires splayed out all over the place. It just happened that at the same time he started showing me some new experiments with a “prepared” digital piano. I was immediately gripped by the originality of this instrument, as well as the simplicity. All it requires is a keyboard, a laptop, and some speakers.
I’ll never fully understand the layers of programming that constitute this software, with its pulsating metronomes, dynamic de-tuning, and reverse “decay-attack” notes. But I can hear him extending an entire tradition of keyboard etudes, from Bach to Chopin to Ligeti. Each of the masters of this tradition pushed both performer and instrument to new technical and expressive heights. I was thrilled at what this new version of that old tool was capable of, or really what Trueman himself was capable of doing with it.
In advance of my recordings of the entire set of 8 etudes in fall of 2015, we wanted to show these pieces and this instrument to our larger musical community. We hope that other pianists might want to explore and play the etudes. We are curious if other composers might want to write their own pieces for this fantastically dynamic instrument, or if improvisers might like to play around with it.
Please enjoy the video of “Nostalgic Synchronic” étude #1, as well as our demo video explaining the Prepared Digital Piano. Drop Dan a line if you’d like to know more about them: manyarrowsmusic [at] gmail.com.
Learn more about Nostalgic Synchronic on Dan Trueman’s website.
Both videos are by Troy Herion.