A few weeks ago I came across Hermann Keller’s 29 pieces for prepared piano. I fell in love with their disintegrating sound, the preparations used negatively – to dismantle the piano timbre, rather than surrogate a percussion ensemble – and decided to build a playlist around them. The following includes six of Keller’s pieces, distributed in sequence among a variety of other things that have caught my ear recently.
I also wanted to include Richard Barrett’s DARK MATTER, the latest of his major composite works to appear on CD (on NMC), and a piece I have been listening to a lot over the last couple of months. It’s an extraordinary work. Like so much of Richard’s music it takes me a few listens for the whole thing to snap into focus. But when it does …
Nearly everything on this playlist is either a solo or duo piece. Most of the pieces are ‘small’ in other ways too; whether in scale, or humility, or on their level of focus. The 80-minute DARK MATTER might appear something of an exception to this rule, yet it too addresses ideas of scale, from the sub-atomic to the cosmic, the human to the social. And at its heart is a solo instrument – the guitar – which contributes greatly to the timbre, structure and concept of the piece.
So guitars are another thread running through this playlist – aided greatly by Geoffrey Morris’s excellent recording of contemporary guitar music In flagranti. As is melody; almost inevitably, perhaps, for a set of mostly solo works. Stephen Montague’s After Ives …, for piano and string quartet, connect several of these threads, and serve to acknowledge his 70th birthday last month.
- Hermann Keller – 29 Stücke: No.1 (Jazzwerkstatt)
- Luciano Berio – Sequenza XI (Deutsche Grammophon)
- Hermann Keller – 29 Stücke: No.5 (Jazzwerkstatt)
- Mark André – … in (Kairos)
- Michael Finnissy – Two Motets: I. Videtis enim interiorem (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- Salvatore Sciarrino – 6 Capricci (Coviello)
- Walter Zimmermann – 15 Zweifache (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- Lee Myung-Sun – Olleh (Celestial Harmonies)
- Hermann Keller – 29 Stücke: No.17 (Jazzwerkstatt)
- Henry Flynt – Guitar Rebop (Recorded)
- Nicolaus Huber – Lazarus (Aeon)
- Hermann Keller – 29 Stücke: No.20 (Jazzwerkstatt)
- Stephen Montague – After Ives … (NMC)
- Hermann Keller – 29 Stücke: No.24 (Jazzwerkstatt)
- Michael Finnissy – Two Motets: II. Deus ti salve (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- Stefan Prins – Etude interieur (sub rosa)
- Richard Barrett – DARK MATTER (NMC)
- Hermann Keller – 29 Stücke: No.29 (Jazzwerkstatt)
Where possible, links to the label’s website have been given for each track.
If you like what you hear, and you you think others might too, please spread the word.
Photo by puukibeach on flickr.