Two of Cantaloupe Music's artists join forces to release a digital EP featuring 10 pieces composed by Don Byron and performed by Lisa Moore, "New York's queen of avant-garde piano" (The New Yorker). The heart of the release, Seven Etudes for Piano, was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Don Byron on Seven Etudes, HIMM, Hyde Park, and Basquiat
"Originally, I conceived a work inspired by Kurt Schwitters, but I changed my mind after a pianist showed me some etudes by Brahms. I immediately knew there would be 7 (it just sounds great), and planned specific stylistic choices for each etude according to its numeric position. I love the idea of developing a pedagogy for the technical elements of your own music. Steve Coleman is great at that. Conlon Nancarrow gave up on it. I am a big fan of Bartok's Mikrokosmos. The idea of creating pedagogical music with high artistic content really appeals to me. Bartok did a great job of introducing the idea of modern controlled dissonance as a form of entertainment, in hopes of creating a new audience for the sort of music he chose to make. At this point in musical history, post-Stravinsky/Schoenberg, playing complicated rhythms correctly enough to create a groove may be the new frontier for the modern classical player. It's much simpler to play individual measures correctly than it is to make a long passage groove, especially when the measures are not exact repeats. Each etude has a different technical focus. Many of them are exercises in ambidexterity, independence, basic ear training, and singing. One movement (the first) was inspired by a famous Picasso painting, Guernica; another movement was inspired by a long-forgotten ad campaign for a soft drink; another explores the rhythmic structure of the Wiener Waltz. Overall, the pianist/vocalist is asked to reveal her inner "entertainer" as well as her mathematical musicianship. The fourth etude sets a text by ee cummings.
"I wrote HIMM during the period where I discovered Black Gospel Culture. I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church, and the kind of religious philosophy and music I discovered in TD Jakes preaching and Kirk Franklin's music surprised me. It was much more Dr. Phil than the "unanswered suffering + heaven" formula I grew up with, and it's changed my life in many ways.
"Hyde Park (Nasty) is part of a suite commissioned by The Egg in Albany, commemorating the quadra-centennial of the "discovery" of the Hudson River. It's about FDR, Hyde Park, the Big War. I imagined the
leader of the free world sitting in his beautiful estate, trying to figure out how to win a very important victory for humanity.
"Basquiat is dedicated to the great artist/downtown personality. He was a Black intellectual who was personally exoticised in the worst way possible, yet his universal artistic qualities should have been obvious; he was not a Black artist, but an artist who is Black. His work is colorful in a way that I feel connected to. I never knew him, though I saw him." – Don Byron