SAM HAYDEN (b.1968): Complete Solo Piano Music - Becomings, Fragment (After Losses), …still time…, Piano Moves.
Catalogue Number: 02W076
Reference: MSV 28611
Description: When we offered a disc of his ensemble works just over a year ago (12V066), we remarked that having studied with Jonathan Harvey, Brian Ferneyhough, and Michael Finnissy, Hayden is constantly on the search for novelty in timbre, is entirely unafraid of experimentation, and is open to high levels of complexity. This only partially applies here, in part due to the restrictions on pitch imposed by the acoustic piano, which limits the degree of spectrally determined material (a recent preoccupation of the composer) available, and the consistency of timbre (absent "preparation" or electronics). In the impressive sequence of pieces that makes up Beginnings, he made extensive use of IRCAM’s OpenMusic computer-assisted composition software to generate underlying duration structures and their rhythmical subdivisions, and pitch fields and their transformations, which he then treated as "found objects" to be overwritten, selected, or adapted at will. This may be responsible for the strong sense of structure and development to be found in these extravagantly virtuosic pieces, operating at the extremes of gesture, polyphony, density, register, dynamic range and textual juxtaposition (and therefore, needless to say, immensely difficult to play). An instantly appreciable major difference between this and many earlier examples of the "new complexity" (not so new any more!) is the textural and harmonic clarity of Hayden's writing. The pianistic structures that he uses more often than not bear a directly traceable relationship to conventional piano figuration - chords, trills and tremolandi, shaped gestures - which are, even at their most complex and dissonant, never even close to being in danger of sounding like a welter of notes flying all over the keyboard. The cycle has a clear trajectory, underlaid by the philosophical idea of "becoming", with a gradual shift towards a greater emphasis on quasi-spectral harmony and away from chromatic counterpoint as it progresses; the stunning chordal textures of the climaxes of the later movements have a remarkably similar effect to the cumulatively eruptive gestures and progressions used by more "conventional" non-atonal piano composers. At the time of composition of Fragment (After Losses) (2003), Hayden was concentrating on ensemble works in dense textures and slow moving timeframes, and this work, adapted from the piano parts of one of these, compresses the content and concentrates the harmony, so to speak. ...still time... (1990) is Hayden’s earliest acknowledged piano work, with an almost Feldmanesque treatment of slow, quiet, isolated gestures and their resonances, though punctuated by sudden spasms in which the material seems to be briefly dramatically compressed in time, exploding in volume and density like a violent travelling wave in a stretched spring. Piano Moves is also an early work (1990), here using electronics to accentuate the resonances of the piano, excited by rapid repeated intervals and chords with a pounding post-minimalistic insistence. Increasingly, the chords, divided between the hands and hammered out in a fusillade of cascading ictuses, become clusters and are punctuated by wild lightning strikes spanning the keyboard as the piece reaches maximum saturation, density, and energy, which subside into a slow section of detached chords and their enveloping resonant field, which again climaxes in a sequence of towering megaliths, and subsides. 2 CDs. Ian Pace (piano).