Merchant Ivory

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On this week's New Canon, we fire off some shots with celebrated composer Martin Bresnick and blue chip pianist Blair McMillen in anticipation of this year's Keys to the Future festival. We talk to both about writing and playing contemporary piano music and how the instrument (in part a holdover from the Industrial Revolution) survives and thrives in the new millennium.

Each year, an army of capital ivory-ticklers descend on New York (specifically Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center this year) with the brightest and boldest contemporary solo piano rep in tow. No Goldberg Variations or Hammerklavier Sonatas here, just a collective of striking works that bend your ear and redefine what a classical pianist can do. McMillen is no stranger to Keys to the Future (he can be heard on our stream of last year's concerts right here) or contemporary music—in fact, he's featured on Q2's Album of the Week in the American Modern Ensemble's new all-Robert-Paterson disc. And, of course, Bresnick studied with the man himself: György Ligeti (a.k.a., the guy who made the HARPSICHORD work in the 20th Century! Come on!).

The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind

While Keys to the Future is all about the solo rep, we're exploring the contemporary piano rep with both solo and ensemble pieces. We'll hear McMillen in both incarnations, performing Paterson with other members of the AME and a solo piece by Judd Greenstein. There's Bresnick galore, and some music from last year's Keys to the Future courtesy of Molly Morkoski and festival founder Joseph Rubenstein.