Defining Contemporary Piano Music

  • piano sounds derived from anything with a cord attached
  • a composition performed on an out of tune piano (included for my personal taste)
  • the strings of a piano struck with fingers
  • the addition of metallic items connected to the piano hammers
  • repetition of notes and theme to a large degree
  • zero repetition of notes or theme
  • free improvisation
  • composition with inordinate attention to sequential methods
  • focus on placement of silence and space
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7 thoughts on “Defining Contemporary Piano Music

  1. As proscription means to condemn (yeah I looked that up), the post is neither a proscription nor indictment. I’m sure I’m missing many points, but those listed are some of my favourite qualities.

    What I mean by sequential method is understood by someone who is a master of a sequencer.

    Most composers (due to either being taught by someone behind the technology curve or themselves being behind that curve) relate to that as “cut and paste,” which is of course the most basic of a sequencer function.

    The closest discussion I’ve seen on the topic was at Sequenza21, which was about “notation software” and most everyone there missed my point (not surprising) about sequencers.

  2. oh wow, I had “chord” in there instead of cord. argg. Well now you know, a “cord” attached.

  3. I chuckled out loud at the second entry. Quite a good list, though La Monte Young might be hurt you didn’t include a last entry:

    “Treating piano as live animal”

    I’m curious, do you see the more contemporary interest in sequencing as a product of laziness or taking advantage of an option not present before? Basically, do you think the obvious increase in using technology to “copy/paste” in compositions has stifled creativity or increased it?

  4. Thanks, C. Ashbaugh.

    Great question since “copy and paste” seems to get all the credit and I’ll address that a bit. I don’t know how familiar you are with the piano, but have you ever played classical period piano works (just using piano as an easy example)? I suppose just listening you would agree that major parts of the score are copy and pasted. Of course the composer had to write it out. Hence, the copy and paste feature of sequencing re: contemporary piano used in that fashion isn’t too great a feature and probably would have benefited the classical period, and romantic period for that matter, much more. There is the exception of minimalism which no doubt highly benefits from C/P, but not as much from sequencing.

    Of course copy and paste when used in the sense of experimenting, that’s a different story. So there is a bit of hypocrisy there. Basically, if you are simply C/P to repeat a phrase, I would term that more use of a simple notational program. You know, you don’t need a sequencer for that. I use a sequencer for live recording and cross it into the notational software.

    I look at sequencing as a way to “real time” compose as well as utilizing the tools which create a symbiotic relationship with the composer. I believe some of the old, great composers who were great improvisers as well would have felt the same way. I don’t see it as the only way of composing, however.

    So to answer your question, the way I use copy and paste has increased my creativity. But I have been using Sonar/Cakewalk since it came on one floppy disk in the early 90s.

    I believe every form of technology will only increase creativity in every art form as opposed to hindering it.

  5. Interesting, and I find myself agreeing. Your point, in my mind, is proven strongest in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata cycle, especially the earlier, more classically styled ones. So many of the melodic and harmonic fragments are reused throughout each individual movement.

    As far as sequencing, it does provide an interesting method of composition that is ironically quite organic, given the seemingly artificial nature of a sequencer. The human element is still important, I suppose.

    I don’t often find someone who enjoys technological innovation in music that is of a practical, and not experimental use. Then again, I grew up with the technology, so perhaps that explains it.

  6. “As far as sequencing, it does provide an interesting method of composition that is ironically quite organic, given the seemingly artificial nature of a sequencer. The human element is still important, I suppose.” – C.

    Yes ironic, but I believe that the word organic when referring to the brain (since we are on the topic of creativity) is actually best described as an organic processor. So in that sense the brain has something in common to work with rather than just a pen.

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