Monday, May 26, 2008
More not being there.
Sometimes when you simply let a score go off on its own into the world, very good things happen.
My School of Levitation, a set of etudes for piano with a score made up entirely of brief prose instructions (it's here, if you like), was played last Saturday in Zug, Switzerland on a program of conceptual and minimalist works including pieces by Young, Brown, Lucier, Kosugi, Ichiyinagi, Reich, Glass & Johnson (all personal heroes). I had written the etudes for Hildegard Kleeb, my favorite pianist, or more accurately, as projects for Hildegard to realize with her students. In the concert in Zug, they were played by Leandra Högger, a young pianist studying in Lucerne.
The first etude uses a very simple process, in which the arms begin crossed and slowly move to the opposite end of the keyboard, by a combination of accumulated errors in repetition and the natural relaxation of the arms. Hildegard writes that
She took a lot of time and space to play quietly and the first Etude lasted about 20 minutes.
I had never imagined a performance of that length, but now it seems exactly right.
In the third Etude, Catching Butterflies, the pianist is asked to speak a series of words into the open piano, pedal down, and then to reproduce prominent resonances of each word on the keyboard. I had left the choice of words up to the pianist, but was totally delighted to learn that, in Zug
In the 3rd etude she used names of butterflies.
The idea had never occurred to me. Now, it's hard to imagine any other text. Has anyone else ever noticed that, in no matter which language, the names of butterflies sound extraordinary?