Stainless Staining: The Music of Donnacha Dennehy

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The final entry of pianist Lisa Moore’s three-part EP series may be its most listenable. It's certainly its most mesmerizing. Each EP has approached the piano in a wildly different fashion, offering Moore the opportunity to display every angle of her versatile chops.

2009’s “Seven” features the jazz and gospel-tinged compositions of Bronx-based clarinetist and composer Don Byron. 2011’s “Lighting Slingers and Dead Ringers,” by composer Annie Gosfield, colors pinging prepared piano with gauzy synth distortion and digital blips.

With "Stainless Staining," Moore takes on two works by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy that pull the pianist into uncharted waters. Equal parts texture and pulse, and built on hypnotic rhythmic repetitions, the music pendulums between active and passive listening. The title track, written specifically for Moore, pairs solo piano with a soundtrack of recorded and (sometimes) manipulated samples taken from a piano retuned so that it produces 100 overtones based on a low G# fundamental (the struck pitch). A seamless, propulsive blend of (wo)man and machine, the piece reflects Dennehy’s newfound fascination with the rhythmic pulsing of the overtone series.

The second piece on the EP is Dennehy’s 2007 work Reservoir. In the liner notes, the composer compares the piece to a Bill Morrison video in which a naked man is gradually submerged in water. The similarity was unintentional, but it’s easy to hear in the first half of the composition, which begins with high staccato piano notes that mimic incessant droplets of water. As the music progresses, the single notes become clustered double-stops as gentle, minimalist chords pool beneath. The piece becomes even more water-like in its second half with dissonances and rhythms blurring together over a depressed sustain pedal, climbing in register over fortissimo explosions of low-end clusters.

Headiness and allegory aside, the music on "Stainless Staining" constitutes an accessible and compelling EP. Packed with subtleties that become increasingly apparent with each repeated listen, it's a fitting and memorable close to a trilogy that illuminates the multidimensional virtuosity of Moore's playing.


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