for extended piano and string quartet(2023)
|Commission||Written in January and February 2023 in residence at MacDowell in Peterborough, New Hampshire, with support from Berklee College of Music.|
|Premiere||March 9, 2023; MIT, Cambridge MA|
September 20, 2023; at DiMenna Center, Manhattan, NY
Either/OR: Jennifer Choi and Pala Garcia, violins; Kal Sugatski, viola; John Popham, cello; Richard Carrick, piano
|Technical requirements||The piano part requires:|
Grand Piano (ideally with an internal frame that allows full access to strings G3-C5)
2 medium hard yarn mallets
1 hard glock mallet
Harmonizer (8-10 inch)
3 Small Rubber mutes (composer specific design for 3 string pitches, or small yellow rubber violin mutes)
4 Larger Rubber mutes (thick rubber black mutes for violin/viola)
2 Thick Rubber Cello mutes
2 Talking drum mallets (or similar)
Glass bottleneck guitar slide (very thick)
Additional materials for SeaGliss such as plastic necklace, string of ping pong balls, etc. at the performers discretion.
Maps suggest explanations, and while explanations reassure us, they also inspire us to ask more questions, consider other possibilities. To ask for a map is to say, “Tell me a story”
Peter Turchi, from Maps of the Imagination
The Atlas is an hour long concert work for piano and string quartet in six full movements and multiple shorter interludes. The Atlas sonifies tales of exploring, belonging, revisiting, longing and blissful enjoyment. It is inspired by stories about the individual, community, ancestry and unknown people and places. And it sonically traverses the ocean, desert, forest, city and Home. Some of these themes were starting points for particular movements, whereas most emerged during the composition process.
The piece begins with Compass - a piece that prompts reorientation within the piano. What happens when one uses a range of objects inside the piano? How do we hear the piano differently? What kind of music can one write when traditional tools (harmony, melody, form) as well as physical tools (hands, strings, mallets, mutes, etc) are different and less familiar? Where does it take the music?
SeaGliss is graphically notated, and provides different opportunities for performer interpretation. Improvisation is a strand throughout the work, invoked in different ways (small passages, embellishments during repetition, enhancing interactions, etc) throughout most movements and freely in Solo/Cartographers.
Penumbra, a title inspired by a painting recently viewed at the Frank Bowling’s America exhibit at the MFA, references the outer shadow of an object, which is a metaphor to my relationship to my maternal ancestral land of Algeria, which I know only through the recordings and words of others. The central melody, as well as the basic 6/4 rhythm, references the music in the film El Gusto, which tells the story of an Algerian Chaabi band in the 1950’s made up of Muslims and Jews that were reunited in Paris 50 years later.
La terre is a transcription of a piano piece I improvised with three separate tracks (for an upcoming CD). It does away entirely with using the keyboard and fully embraces the piano as a percussive instrument. Expanse unifies the instruments and opens a brief window to fully resonant piano and strings. Interlude is a mosaic of sound that digs deep into the resonance of the low piano strings.
Journey through the Spheres references the spectral beauty of the harmonic spheres, presented tonight as the final version of a piece I premiered with my students in Neither/Nor in November 2021. Additional threads embedded in this piece include the music of Tom Waits, EDM, Jean-Philippe Rameau, John Cage, Henry Cowell, and Iancu Dumitrescu. It explores the ways in which the mechanics of the piano can blend with the strings (of both the piano and string quartet).
Composing music for non-traditional sounds in The Atlas presented an analogy to the two step process of creating maps outlined by Peter Turchi: namely that of explorer (to identify and understand the land) and of guide (to lead others through it). The land in this case is experimenting with a combination of the sonic possibilities of inside-the-piano techniques, the vast landscape of piano repertoire in contemporary and classical music, and avant-garde, experimental, and improvised musics, alongside the string quartet immense possibilities. And then, when sitting down to write the piece “at some point, we turn from the role of Explorer to take on that of Guide.” (Turchi)
My sincerest gratitude to Berklee College of Music for offering me a sabbatical to focus on composing and MacDowell for offering me a Fellowship in January-February 2023 to write this work. The Atlas was premiered at MIT Hearing Sounds series on March 9, 2023 and received its NY Premiere at DiMenna Center for Classical Music on September 20, 2023.
– Richard Carrick