Composers Notes – The Art of Touching the Keyboard

 

José Evangelista
Nuevas monodías españolas (1999)

This piece consists of 21 arrangements of traditional melodies from Spain, mostly from Castile. They are work songs, love songs, narrative songs, dances, lullabies, etc. plus two Sephardic melodies. The title refers to my previous piece, Monodías españolas (1988). As in the first collection, I have considered two facts: many traditional Spanish melodies are still performed monodically, just with rhythmic accompaniment, and many of these melodies carry some modal features which are difficult to reconcile with the tonal language. Thus, my settings do not use harmony or counterpoint. As a consequence, I have been exploring a piano style where register changes and ornamentation predominate. The goal is to create the illusion that several voices simultaneously perform slight variations of the same melody on different octaves. Eve Egoyan commissioned this piece with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts.

– José Evangelista

José Evangelista was born in Valencia (Spain) in 1943. He began his musical studies with Vicente Asencio while simultaneously studying physics. Later work in computers led him to Canada. Settling in Montreal in 1970, he studied composition with André Prévost and Bruce Mather. Since 1979 he has been a professor at the University of Montreal where he created the Balinese Gamelan Workshop in 1987. He has been a founding member of several concert societies, has received several awards and numerous commissions, among others, from Itinéraire (Paris), the Kronos Quartet, the Groupe vocal de France, the SMCQ and the CBC. Evangelista pursues an artistic path by which he has explored ways of making a music based exclusively on melody.

Karen Tanaka
Crystalline (1988)
This piece is constructed from seven short parts. B flat and E are used as axes throughout the work. A glassy, solid sound is required: like a cold, crystal sound sculpture. Since I composed Crystalline in 1988 I have wanted to project the image of crystal onto sound. A link and a further development from Crystalline can be seen in the later pieces: Hommage en Cristal (1991) for solo piano and strings, Metallic Crystal (1994–95) for solo percussionist and computer, Crystalline II (1995) and Crystalline III (2000) for solo piano.
– Karen Tanaka

Born in Tokyo, Karen Tanaka’s musical education included formal composition lessons from the age of ten, and she later studied with Akira Miyoshi, Tristan Murail at IRCAM, and Luciano Berio. A series of important commissions from Japan in the 1990s confirmed her as one of the leading living composers from that country. During the same period, there were increasing performances and broadcasts around the world including the UK, USA, France, Scandinavia and five ISCM festivals. Since 2000, she has had commissions from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony, and the NHK Symphony Orchestra. Karen Tanaka is currently Visiting Associate Professor at University of California, Santa Barbara.

Judith Weir
The Art of Touching the Keyboard (1983)

The title of this music is an over-literal translation of the title of François Couperin’s harpsichord tutor of 1716, L’art de toucher le clavecin. It seemed appropriate for a piece which begins with the player pressing single keys tentatively, as if encountering the instrument for the first time, and ends ten minutes later with the same repeated notes marked “confident and relaxed”. In the interim, the music, which is a single continuous movement, demonstrates the many ways in which the piano keys can be touched, from the gentlest of strokes to the most vicious of blows.
– Judith Weir

Judith Weir is a British composer, born in 1954. She studied composition with John Tavener and Robin Holloway. Her interest in theatre, narrative and folklore has resulted in three full-length operas (A Night at the Chinese Opera, The Vanishing Bridegroom and Blond Eckbert) and collaborations with the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Peter Hall Company. Among artists and ensembles commissioning works from her recently are Jessye Norman; Sir Simon Rattle and the CBSO orchestra; the Minnesota Orchestra; and the London Sinfonietta. From 1995 to 1998 she was the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s resident composer and from 1995 to 2000 she was the Artistic Director of the Spitalfields Festival in London. Although much of her recent work has been for large forces, piano chamber music lies at the heart of her oeuvre, most of it written for personal friends to play.
Stephen Parkinson
Trail (2001)

Trail places no remarkable technical demands on the performer. Instead, it asks the pianist to make interesting music from the simplest of materials and the barest of textures. This is a daunting challenge few performers are willing to accept. Eve has applied her consummate musicianship and sensitivity to Trail, and, once again, I feel very fortunate to have Eve perform my music. Thank you Eve. Trail is dedicated, with love, to Emily 24.
– Stephen Parkinson

Stephen Parkinson studied composition with Rudolf Komorous, Michael Longton and Roger Reynolds. He is a founding member of the Drystone Orchestra (with composers John Abram, Martin Arnold and Allison Cameron); is an active member of the Toronto improvised music scene; and, plays with Marmots (directed by Martin Arnold). His piece Desires are Already Memories is recorded by Arraymusic on their “New World” CD and Rainbow Valley for piano solo is recorded by Eve Egoyan on her disc,“thethingsinbetween.”
Per Nørgård
Turn  (1973)

Turn, originally composed for that soft brittle baroque instrument, the clavichord, and one of several preliminary studies for his great Third Symphony for choir and orchestra, marks yet another new beginning in Nørgård’s production. Turn marks the start of Nørgård’s so-called “infinity-rows”, and these together with the natural network of overtones form the basis of arpeggios in which the separate notes are accentuated in turn to form constantly new rhythmic pulsations. The chords vibrate like strings when struck, and together they form a magic echo room, which closes in on itself, as it were, without any appreciable intervention on the part of the composer. The piece is a declaration of love for the universal order and the wealth of regular form in the infinity rows—a piece of “formed” Nature set in resounding motion.
– Karl Aage Rasmussen

Per Nørgård, born in 1932, started composing as a child and studied with Vagn Holmboe, Finn Høffding and Nadia Boulanger. He has composed in most genres of music: operas, orchestral works (including six symphonies), chamber music, and vocal works. Many distinguished orchestras and institutions have commissioned works from him including, most recently, the BBC Symphony, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Per Nørgård received the Leonie Sonning Music Prize in 1996, on the same day as the publication of a book of essays covering his life and work edited by Anders Beyer, and the world première of his piano Concerto In Due Tempi.
Allison Cameron
Corals of Valais (1997)

Corals of Valais was written for Eve in the summer of 1997. The title is not a reference to any particular place—only what might be.
– Allison Cameron

From Vancouver, B.C., Allison Cameron studied with Michael Longton, Rudolf Komorous, Louis Andriessen, Gilius van Bergeijk, Henryk Gorecki, Per Nørgård and James Tenney. Since 1989, she has been a freelance composer in Toronto where she co-founded the Drystone Orchestra and created the Arcana Ensemble. She has been a guest artist at Bang-on-a-Can festivals in New York and many other festivals in Europe, the United States and Canada. Her music has been widely performed by specialists in contemporary repertoire. Recordings of her pieces have been released on CRI, Experimental Intermedia, Donemus, Slovak Radio, and Musicworks. She performs frequently in the Toronto improvised music scene and is currently Artistic Director of the Arraymusic Ensemble in Toronto.