News flash: I still play the piano sometimes! Here’s a recent performance of Chopin’s gloriously slippery Polonaise-Fantasie, and a few Chopin-adjacent notes, recorded at the Green Space last month.
To celebrate our impending tour together, Gabriel Kahane and I have made an album (or is it the other way around?) called Dream Job. On it, we attempt to summon the spirits of Charles Ives & Benjamin Britten, leading to inevitable fisticuffs (as imagined by illustrator Hallie Bateman). It will be available Friday, April 1 to order (digitally or cardboardally) from Gabe’s Bandcamp page. In the meantime, you can listen to two songs: Gabe’s title track, and my To Whom it May Concern. Head over to Bandcamp to see the full tracklist.
Our tour dates are as follows:
March 31: The Cliburn, Ft. Worth, TX
April 2 & 3: Newman Center, Denver, CO
April 5: Schubert Club, St. Paul, MN
April 7: Zankel Hall, New York, NY
April 9: Carolina Performing Arts, Chapel Hill, NC
2016 composing update: composing is proving no easier in the new year than it has been in past years. Facing up to a blank two-piano/two-percussion-shaped page at the moment, and each note I put down seems to bring me further away from having an actual idea.
I’m not trying to be dramatic; I’m merely trying to complain. Please let me know in the comments section if you feel I’ve succeeded.
Luckily, I’ve already written some other music for people to play this month. Sleeping Giant is coming strong out of the gate. First, a new project for our friend and favorite cellist Ashley Bathgate, and the following week, the première of a new multimedia version of Hand/Eye, our piece for Eighth Blackbird.
In between, I’m joining the violinist Yevgeny Kutik for an interesting show at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., curated and hosted by Nico Muhly. We’re playing two Stravinskies, a Muhly, and a brand-new me called Words Fail.
Here at Andres & Sons we’ve been ramping up activities related to two imminent premières: a new quartet for the Takács called Strong Language and a piano concerto for Jonathan Biss called The Blind Banister. The pieces were written back-to-back and are kind of fraternal twins, weighing in at 23 minutes and three movements each, but with very different characters. Of course it’s hard to find two more dissimilar forms than a string quartet and a piano concerto, each hard to one side of the public-private dichotomy. I tend to think of myself mainly as a chamber music composer—few things are more nerve-wracking than the process of writing for orchestra—but maybe I am finally ready to embrace it. I even wrote for timpani for the first time! Adding timpani is like adding proper capitalization and good formatting—suddenly whatever you’ve made looks like the genuine article.
I hope to post at least audio excerpts soon, if not entire pieces, so check back next month.
Got some new events listed for the 2015–16 season. Pour yourself a nice Campari and soda while you peruse.
Woke up in Seattle this morning because tonight is the première of Running Theme, a new string orchestra piece for Town Music. Josh Roman (the famous cellist & newly-minted conductor) leads a mixed consort of seasoned pros and talented high-schoolers. I think it’ll be good; the piece is a fun compound-meter romp with lots of squeaky harmonics. You can listen to the live broadcast here, at 7:30 PST.
I’m a bit gutted to be missing another première that’s happening tonight in Detroit. It’s been four years since Sleeping Giant first asked eighth blackbird out for coffee, and now we’re having a baby! I mean, we wrote them a big piece. It’s called Hand Eye and we couldn’t be more proud of the little terror. There will be plenty of chances to hear it subsequently over the coming season, including a semi-staged production by the amazing Candystations.
None of them have audio yet—only enough words to excite your curiosity.
This is just to say: this website is not dead, only sleeping. The 2014–15 concert season is almost over, the last hurrah being two out-of-town premières both happening June 27th. I’ll be supervising the proceedings in Seattle. Thanks to everyone who came to Miller Theater last night; it was great fun to play a bit of my music with some of my favorite friends & colleagues.
What else? I’m moving again, still within Brooklyn. (This is a great relief; please continue to refer to me as a “Brooklyn-based composer” because it is very important to my sense of identity.)
I flippantly commented on Twitter earlier that StaffPad, a new music notation app for Microsoft Surface, had a likely audience of one—Alan Pierson, the lone musician Surface-owner I know. It’s easy to poke fun at dorky old Microsoft, but I’m genuinely just sore that I can’t try out the app. To expend as much development effort as StaffPad clearly has only to address the 2% share of tablets that run Windows seems like a risky business strategy, to put it mildly; I sincerely hope they’re successful, though, because promising new software in this category doesn’t come along often. The target audience is small to begin with, and the number of talented musician-programmers even smaller, I’d imagine.
Perhaps, though, StaffPad isn’t even meant for me. It doesn’t appear to have real engraving capabilities (it lacks, fir example, cross-staff beaming—a relatively basic feature) and therefore wouldn’t obviate my need for Sibelius. Yet it also can’t export a Sibelius file—only MusicXML, which is far too rudimentary to be useful, in my experience.
But I have wanted a way to “do music” on my phone and iPad for awhile, and nothing I’ve seen has quite fit the bill.
The hypothetical software I’ve been imagining is far less elaborate—a companion to big notation programs rather than a replacement for them. The interface would be a blank sheet of music paper, and you’d just draw on it. Notes, shapes, pictures, text, whatever. Add a simple filing system, to keep all your related sketches together, along with voice memos and photos. The result would be the digital equivalent of a music Moleskine, or like a musically-oriented Vesper. Maybe it could have some kind of handwriting recognition to clean up the input a bit.
Fully expecting like a dozen venture capitalists to get at me right after I hit publish on this. It’ll be the next Facebook, I tell ya!
Why are pianists always looking at the ceiling?
I always thought it was a kind of swanning, put on for dramatic display, and just yesterday noticed that I was doing it—alone, in a windowless practice room in the basement of Davies Hall. Just who was I trying to impress?
Dismayed, I scanned through a video from my recital at the Phillips collection and noticed I was doing it there, too.
I have a theory (I almost always have a theory). On both occasions, I was trying to quickly acclimate to unfamiliar pianos (something pianists have to learn to do regularly). Perhaps I was unconsciously trying to distance myself from the sound of the instrument, much as one would walk around different locations of a hall to gauge the sound of someone else playing.
I can’t imagine moving one’s head backwards a foot or so actually changes the perception of sound much—though maybe it does? Perhaps someone who knows more about hearing or sound perception would care to comment.
Still have no idea why a pianist’s head would move in the opposite direction, though: