When The Piano Isn't Enough ...

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Electronics Grid

Late in his life, the famed Italian pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni felt so straightjacketed by the equal tempered tonal system that he said one of the only viable method of escape was the invention of new sounds through electronic instruments. This week on Hammered! we explore that prophetic look into the future and listen to the rich repertoire for piano and electronics.     

Much of the convincing music for piano and electronics are those works that either pit the two sonic families in opposition, or aspire to integrate them. The former category sometimes reframes well-worn formal schemes, like the Concerto for Piano and Electronics by John Melby, where the piano and electronics -- like the soloist and orchestra in most capital-R Romantic concertos -- are at odds, battling, dueling for supremacy. The latter category attempts to join the acoustic and electronic mediums into one seamless texture, like Mario Davidovsky's Synchronism no. 6 or portions of Jakub Ciupinski's Morning Tale.

Other works, still, seem to accept, and even accentuate, the sonic dissonance of the two timbral families and use electronics for special purposes. Take the startling climax of Chris Cerrone's Hoyt-Schermerhorn, where the stabbing high notes in the piano splinter into shards of static, or in Jacob Cooper's Clifton Gates, which uses electronic delay mechanisms to build a dense counterpoint of musical lines. 

This is all to say there is a surplus of cool music this week, rounded off with works by John Cage, Ryan Francis, Eliot Britton, Benjamin Broening, and, on Friday, a full performance of one of the great electro-acoustic pieces of the twentieth century, Pierre Boulez's Répons