'Other Music' For Piano

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Hammered! welcomes the New York-based composer collective Sleeping Giant for a month-long December residency. Composer-pianist Timothy Andres hosts and curates each Monday episode while the rest of the week is filled in with specially curated episodes by the five other Sleepy Gs: Christopher Cerrone, Jacob Cooper, Ted Hearne, Robert Honstein and Andrew Norman.

Monday | Episode 11: "Strumming Music"
by Timothy Andres

One of the defining moments of my musical life was being hired by a violinist to play John Adams's Road Movies—I was a college freshman, and hadn't heard Adams's music, nor any of the ur-minimalists Glass, Reich, Riley, or La Monte Young. I was initially puzzled by this music, and soon obsessed. I learned Phrygian Gates and played it for anyone polite enough to listen. I started to re-evaluate my own music as well, and began work on a notebook of ideas for two-piano pieces, which would become my album 'Shy and Mighty' a few years later.

We begin this week with a program devoted mostly to a work by Alvin CurranFor Cornelius, a stellar example of the genre of minimal pianism I call "Strumming Music" (after the piece by Charlemagne Palestine). Most strumming pieces are at least partially improvisatory, here in terms of durations—the performer gets to decide for how long to repeat a given figure. My own At the River works similarly, though on a smaller scale. At the River is full of internal references, not only to the hymn of that title, but to Curran and Palestine, as well as Ives, Copland, and Ingram Marshall, who all wrote settings of the same tune.

Be sure to tune in Friday and next Monday, when Andrew Norman and I put the Christ back in Christmas with a lot of Olivier Messiaen and a little Johann Sebastian Bach.

Tuesday | Episode 12: Songs Without Words
by Robert Honstein

Many of the short, evocative character pieces of the 19th century reveal song-like features and poetic subtexts. Inspired by that tradition, today's show features contemporary works referencing either songs or text. We begin with my own Is it Auburn?. The two-movement piece elaborates lines taken from a mysterious set of emails a friend of mine received by mistake. The first movement, Just please let me know and that's all I ask from you is a desperate declamation and the second movement, Is it Auburn?, is a strange, almost existential question.

Next we hear Thomas Adès' Darknesse Visible a haunting transcription of John Dowland's lute song In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell. Steve Snowden's The Devil's Nine Questions takes it's cue from a field recording of an old Appalachian folk tune, while George Crumb's Eine Kliene Mitternachtmusik is a sprawling set of variations on the classic Thelonious Monk tune, Round Midnight. Ian Dicke's White Parasol powerfully evokes the specter of melting polar ice caps in response to a recent BBC News article and Benjamin Broening's piano duet, Nachtlied, from his new album Recombitant Nocturnes, is a contemporary take on the Nocturne. We close the show in the Nocturnal spirit with a return to that 19th century genre of evocative character pieces. You'll hear the fourth Nachstücke by Robert Schumann. It is a short, strange and beautiful work by one of the genre's greatest masters.

Wednesday | Episode 13: Glitches and Samples
by Jacob Cooper

Piano and synth samples run amok in this program, from Carl Stone’s Shing Kee, which elongates a sample of Schubert’s song “The Linden Tree,” to Oval’s Do While, a landmark work of 1990s “glitch” (a movement that focused on elevating digital noise—like scratches on compact discs—to musical heights). Lumi is a recent effort by Vladislav Delay, another important figure in the glitch movement; while James Blake, a buzzworthy DJ, pianist, and vocalist from the UK, samples his piano in glitchian fashion in I Only Know What I Know Now, turning recording hiss into a musical element that is no less than beautiful. Silver Threads, written by me for the inimitable vocalist Mellissa Hughes, is the product of my fascination with the other music presented here. Its text is a haiku attributed to Basho. 

Thursday | Episode 14: Voices and Piano
by Ted Hearne

Here is a collection of piano/keyboard works I really like. 

This set is bookended with Vincent Raikhel's Pantelon and Beat Furrer's Voicelessness. The snow has no voice. These are solo pieces that, while very different in terms of mood, create unique rhythmic profiles by overlaying different meters atop one another. (Raikhel uses displacement to create a stuttering canon, while Furrer composes a series of single-staff lines and asks the performer to play two-at-a-time, reading down the page vertically. Both are fascinating scores to look at.)

Parlor Diplomacy is a solo work that I wrote earlier this year for my friend Timo Andres. Each of the five movements somehow distorts familiar tropes, fragments or gestures that would probably be more comfortable somewhere in the classical canon.

Daniel Wohl's Aorta, and Peter Ablinger's Morton Feldman (from his 4+hour, as-of-yet unfinished cycle) are both works for solo pianist that use interaction with fixed electronics to very different ends. Wohl calls for the pianist to fit inside the textured and produced world of the electronic landscape, while Ablinger sets the two as very distinct entities. Ablinger says of his massive set of pieces, each of which includes the recorded speaking voice of a celebrity (a diverse list that includes Mao Tse-Tung, Nina Simone and Mother Theresa): 

"The piano is not really accompanying the voices: the relation of the two is more a competition or comparison. Speech and music is compared. We can also say: reality and perception. Reality/speech is continuous, perception/music is a grid which tries to approach the first. Actually the piano part is the temporal and spectral scan of the respective voice, something like a coarse gridded photograph. Actually the piano part is the analysis of the voice."

qsqsqsqsqqqqqqqq is a rousing trio for three toy pianos and one-bit electronics by Tristan Perich, performed live at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn by three pianist/composers (Lorna Krier, Amir Khosrowpour, and Tristan himself). This set is filled out with a brand-new track from Lorna Krier, The Depths, which will be included on the debut record of her solo synth project Lorna Dune.

Friday | Episode 15: A Merry Messiaen Christmas
by Andrew Norman 

Selections from Olivier Messiaen's Vingt Regard sur l'enfant Jesus.