Open your ears and your mind at the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice (SICPP). It's a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in hearing where new music has been going, and to understand where it might be going next.
Legendary artists are in residence for this week of intensive musical study and performance, alongside seminar participants who are here for the sheer thrill of the avant garde. NEC's Stephen Drury is artistic director for this institute, and guest artists this year include composer Rand Steiger and pianist Winston Choi, who takes the stage tonight.
Choi's program includes solo works by Conlon Nancarrow, who often wrote for player piano in order to accommodate more notes than human hands could encompass; Elliott Carter, whose prolific output continued to startle audiences up until his death last year at age 103; and contemporary composers Brian Ferneyhough, Jacques Lenot, and Hans Thomalla, who is codirector of Northwestern University's Institute for New Music.
Notes on the works on this program were provided by the composers.
Carter Two Diversions
These Two Diversions for piano deal with a growing contrast between simultaneous musical ideas. The first Diversion presents a line of paired notes, musical intervals, that maintain a single speed throughout, while the other very changeable material uses many different speeds and characters. The second Diversion contrasts two musical lines one of which, on the whole, grows slower and slower while the other grows faster and faster. With these musical ideas about diverging materials, I hope I have written diverting music.
Ferneyhough Lemma - Icon - Epigram
The title of this work refers to a poetic form, the Emblema, developed most notably by the Italian poet Alciati during the first half of the sixteenth century. In general usage, the term is taken to mean an epigram which describes something so that it signifies something else. Later developments distinguish three components: a superscription (or adage), an image, and a concluding epigram in which the preceding elements are commented upon or explained.
Lenot Cités de la nuit, Ils traversent la nuit
Nancarrow Two Canons for Ursula
Thomalla Piano Counterpart
Piano Counterpart is a rhapsody. The keys are struck seemingly without aim, like a child tapping curiously on unknown objects, listening with concentration to how that sounds.
But not only single tones are presented this way in Piano Counterpart. Entire boulders of musical language appear: a continuation of the piano strings into the history of the instrument, into layer after layer of musical meaning. Piano Counterpart strikes these layers, lets them ring and excavates them at the same time.
By means of reduction to fewer and fewer pitches at the border of the instrument, and by a constant diminuendo, the piano strings and their sonorous characteristics themselves come increasingly into focus. The now uncovered tones are connected mechanically at first, following the given chromatic layout of the keyboard. But their relation grows increasingly free, and like the loose connections between the ruins of musical languages in the beginning of the piece, the newly emerging musical figures now relate to one another spontaneously, unpredictably, triggered only by the musical moment. The piano now “speaks” almost as rhapsodically as it was struck in the beginning of the piece.
In addition to SICPP's evening concerts, SICPP participants perform solo repertoire at 11:30am on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 The Fenway. Museum admission fee is waived if you tell them at the door that you are attending the SICPP concert in Calderwood Hall.