Jenny Q Chai’s “Piano Steampunk” program explores the relationships between piano and electronics, beginning with the earliest development of music for this pairing. Computers and electronics have interested and influenced composers for as long as they have existed. This long-term relationship with technology has also changed many composers’ approach to writing solo piano music, even those who have not worked with electronics, leading them to open new dimensions of the piano’s sound. This program traces the pre-history and development of music for piano and electronics across an international arena, with antennae tuned both to the past and the future.
First, pieces by French composers Debussy, Messiaen, and (spectralist forerunner) Tristan Murail form a chain of direct influence which strongly grounds the futuristic works to come. German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s laboratory experiments influenced contemporary Italian composer Marco Stroppa a great deal, not only in writing for electronics, but also in composing new sounds for acoustic piano. Then we travel to the U.S., for a whirlwind tour of widely varied pieces: Cole Ingraham’s brand new piece for piano and electronics, Chou Wen-Chung’s Willows are New (a ghostly realization of an ancient Chinese poem), John Cage’s pieces which incorporate singing and speaking as well as the use of tape, Frederic Rzewski’s use of the pianist as the narrator of the story in his Kreutzer Sonata, Vanessa Lann’s highly personal piece Leap of Faith for piano and electronics, Cindy Cox’s new piece for piano and sampled piano interior sounds, and finally James Mobberly’s powerful dialogue between the piano and electronics in the Caution to the Wind.
Jenny Q Chai is co-presented by the Center with NEXMAP.