COMPOSERS IN PLAY offers an up-to-date snapshot, particularly in conjunction with a premiere or new artistic collaboration. Ahead of the upcoming performance June 5, 2019 in Toronto – The Canadian Left Hand Commissioning Project – Taylor Brook discusses his new piece for composer/performer Adam Scime: Shaekout. Taylor sat down with us to offer some thoughts about the piano and a compelling new compositional approach he dubs: Piano as Imaginary Percussion Instrument.) 🎹 Ten Supersonic questions follow.
What are your current thoughts about solo piano music?
I wrote a solo piano piece back in 2009, (it’s alright.) At the time, I found it very challenging to write for the piano; today, I think I find it even more challenging to do so. I will often enhance my writing for the piano in an ensemble context with re-tuned piano samples, mixed to give the illusion that the instrument is microtonally tuned. I have also written some digital piano pieces (re-tuned).
My dream is to write for a piano that I myself can retune. Microtonality has been such a constant throughout my work: my whole harmonic language is based on it. I almost feel like I am a beginner again when I write for the piano. This is the reason I took the particular approach I did in the new piece Shakeout (ie. without any kind of baggage!)
What pianistic effects or concepts were you after in your new left-handed piano piece, Shakeout?
As mentioned before, I tried to think about the piano as an imaginary percussion instrument. To this end, I severely limited what could be played in terms of pitches and harmonies, instead focusing on rhythmic ideas.
Another thought I’ve had in context of this project: after looking at the list of composers involved in the project, it occurred to me what a beautiful group of works would be created from the cohort. I thought I’d like to offer something that will contrast and generate interest within the group.
So I wrote a rather “ugly” piece.
It’s not repulsive, just brutal. Of course, it could be a fun little piece in isolation, however not knowing what the other composers wrote, (just knowing their music in a general sense), I thought it might be interesting to produce music that stand outs as well as fitting well within the group.
What might you identity as your favourite or most compelling piano technique, extended or otherwise?
Anything can be compelling in context.
Tell us more about your approach dubbed, “piano as an imaginary percussion.”
TEN SUPERSONIC QUESTIONS
1. What instrument do you most dislike the sound of?
None really – Marimba can be tough, but I can’t say I really dislike it.
2. What music are you writing at the moment?
Solo for bassoon and electronics for Dana Jessen. Electronic music. And a piece for TAK ensemble (soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, and percussion) with electronics.
3. Name three other composers you’d share a drink with.
4. Favourite performing artist alive and active today?
Not sure – I need to get out more!
5. What did you want to be when you grew up?
6. What was the last piece of new music that really blew you away?
Mouthpiece by Erin Gee.
7. Name your favourite key, chord, tonality, cluster or extra musical noise.
11/8 with 6/5 (ie. the 11th overtone mixed with the just minor 3rd).
8. What book are you reading at the moment?
Music in the 17th and 18th Centuries by Richard Taruskin (brushing up for my teaching).
9. Favourite breakfast food?
10. (Summer) dream vacation?
Extra question: Name your favourite Montreal haunt.