Annual “New American Piano” features collaboration with dance department in three premieres

WHAT: Annual new music series, “The New American Piano” WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 24;

WHERE: Evelyn Smith Music Theatre, Herberger College School of Music Building, 40 E. Gammage Pkwy., Tempe;

TICKETS: Free admission, no tickets required. 

TEMPE, Ariz. – The School of Music in the Herberger College of Fine Arts at ASU presents “The New American Piano.” Now in its fifth season, this year’s performance of new piano music is a collaboration between the Herberger College Dance Department choreographer Elina Mooney, professor of dance, and Madeline Williamson, professor of piano. The program features the premiere of three new dance pieces choreographed by Mooney especially for the piano music chosen for the program.

Mooney’s new works will be performed by Williamson’s KRUSTÁ ensemble, a new music small ensemble dedicated to the performance of works written for piano and percussion, with original choreography.

The three new premieres will be: 1) Chinese Poems, the first choreography of composer Barbara Kolb’s 1977 Spring Flowers Moon Night for two pianos and electronic tape; 2) Celebration, to John Cage’s innovative 1948 work, Three Dances for Two Prepared Pianos(various objects are inserted throughout the 88 keys of each of the two grand pianos to entirely alter their sound to that similar of a Balinese Gamelan Orchestra) and 3) Fury, a premiere world choreography for Marlos Nobres’ Sonancias III for two pianos and two percussionists. 

Mooney and Williamson have known each other and interacted professionally for numerous years, frequently attending one another’s performances and sharing a mutual interest and inquisitiveness about the interactive nature of dance and music. Following the spring 2002 residency of composers George Crumb and David Burge, the two artists determined that it was finally time that they merge their dual interests in artistic collaboration through the intersecting of original choreography performed with live music.

Now in its fifth season, the intriguing New American Piano event is dedicated to showcasing more infrequently performed works for the piano from the 20th and 21st centuries by composers of the Americas. This year’s performance draws upon the richness of the music of acclaimed Brazilian, Marlos Nobres. According to founder and concert coordinator Madeline Williamson, of special interest to the series “are innovative works for the piano that utilize the vast resources of timbre inherent to the instrument as well as programming which draws upon the wide diversity of composers from the Americas in ethnicity, locale, style, and gender.”

An especially intriguing work on Monday night’s program will be the rarely performed “Dances for Two Prepared Pianos” by American avant-gardist, John Cage. This dynamic work is seldom heard in live performance due to the complexity and rehearsal difficulty of using a pair of prepared pianos (i.e. inserting various screws, nuts, bolts, and pieces of plastic and rubber into the strings of both pianos).

According to Williamson, “This transforms the two pianos into a Kaleidoscope of tumultuous sounds—bangs, thuds, buzzes, and gongs—all of which are quite exhilarating to the listener.” Williamson describes the Cage work as “virtuosic in temperament, physically energetic and intricate to execute. The syncopations and cross-rhythms should leave the listener breathless. The preparation alone for just one piano, averages about 20 hours in time.” 

The program features Mooney’s ensemble of dancers, including guest artists Candace Ammerman, Amy Oakley-Sams, Karen Schupp and Renee Waters in key solo roles. Additionally, a student ensemble of six dancers will also be involved. Mooney says, “The choreographer/musician collaboration will explore the particular relationship between musicians and dancers—encompassing the gamut from musicians and dancers sharing the same “space” with direct interaction to the actual juxtaposition of the two artistic elements fostering a spontaneity of performance as their connecting factor.” 

Other members of Williamson’s ensemble KRUSTÁ, Brazilian pianist, Rubia Santos, and Douglas Nottingham, percussion, will be joined in the performance by local professional artists, Andria Fennig on piano, and Brett Reed on additional percussion.

Media Contact:
Megan Krause