Thursday, May 20, 2010

Timothy Andres: "Shy and Mighty", new CD from Nonesuch

I pre-ordered the new CD of a ten-movement piano suite called “Shy and Mighty” by Timothy Andres from Amazon, and it arrived today, shipped from Lexington, KY. I didn’t know that CD’s were being packaged in cardboard rather than plastic jewel boxes, but that is greener.

OK, the composition itself comprises ten pieces for two pianos played by “Timo” and pianist David Kaplan. They total about an hour (I didn’t get the exact length off of my Dell computer), and strike me as like a set of etudes, not necessarily intended to be played in one sitting (rather like the Chopin etudes or a set of Rachmaninoff preludes). Is the title of the work a “paradox”? I suppose one could explore the world of polarities and the books of Paul Rosenfels for an answer.

The music tends to have a lot of passage work, as in common in etude writing, with each piece organized around a couple of motifs (often ternary in form), perhaps sometimes corresponding to yin and yang. There is some brew of polytonality and a dash of impressionism. Tim’s notes talk about his early liking of the big early 20th century orchestral Viennese-to-Slavic composers (starting with Mahler), but what I heard in pieces was a French, almost like Ravel sometimes, with a little jazz, the last piece having a touch of Gershwin. Actually, as my mind wandered I found myself recalling strolling alongside the Nervion River in Bilbao, Spain (Euskadi, actually), on the opposite from the Guggenheim, in an annoying drizzle (April 2001), wearing a tweed coat, checking my pockets for my passport. The city seems interplanetary, rather like it belongs in one of Clive Barker’s other Dominions. Perhaps if “Hollywood” gets around to filming “Imajica”, Andres would be a good choice for the score composer. My favorite of the pieces (in one hearing), was the next to last, composed early, called “Flirtation Ave.” (Bilbao doesn’t look like a city for flirting, though.). The first piece, "Antennae" reminds me a bit of the Schumann Toccata, and the eighth piece, "How Can I Live in Your World of Ideas?", gives the two pianos the roles of characters in an existential dialogue.

His notes (printed in white on a black background) present an interview by Ronen Givony. He talks about his last “high school” year of home schooling and then pre-college at Julliard. There appears to be a curious parallel to my own life in the 50s, maybe. I could imagine making my “Do Ask Do Tell” movie around the concept of “why music didn’t become my life’s work” – I wish it had, and it might have – and I could wrap around all of this (like bacon) the plot of the WB show “Everwood” where the prodigy pianist Ephram (played by Gregory Smith, whom I have met) doesn’t get into Julliard after he skips the audition because he has been deceived by his father. This all gets to be too much for a blog posting, but not for the movies.

The art work in the album is interesting. There is a woodcut-like cartoon on one page, but the photo work is interesting. I don’t know why the booklet cover cuts off his face, but the album cover is becoming, as is the panoramic black-and-white “centerfold” showing the grimy city (New York, that is, from the perspective of the “common man”) with Tim standing tall, and mammalian.

As for some of his other music (“The Hymn of the Big Wheel”), I’m impressed that you can write dance music that sounds like it works for both concert performance (orchestra, chamber or pianos or various combos) and dirty dancing, complete with love trains on the disco floor. Actually, I suppose you could disco dance to the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

Visit the composer's website and Kaplan’s site.  The composer's picture in his latest posting looks like a disguise with the glasses.

The outdoor picture above on this posting is mine, from a 2004 visit to Coney Island, in November, of the boardwalk in an area that used to house the paddleball courts, called the “Seaside Courts”. Andres likes to put thematic pictures on his blog postings, so I looked for one of mine that was somehow similarly tempered.

(When I typed the title of this post, I almost typed "High and Mighty" -- a TV show, and earlier a famous movie from the 50s.)

The CD number for Nonesuch is 522413-2.

Amazon's link is here.  There is also an MP3 download link at Amazon, slightly lower in cost.  Please, stay legal; artists need royalty legitmate income from their work!

Update: Feb. 27, 2011

Note the comments in the New York Times by Nate Chinen here. He writes "Timothy does something as a composer that I’ve never been able to do myself. He can create characters in music that you see and feel," and discusses the piece "How Can I Live in Your World of Ideas" of "Shy and Mighty" as an example.  Creating characters in a novel or movie (like "The Social Network") is tough enough.

In fact, you can find a little "screenplay" for a possible short film (that's what I see in it) on Tim's blog Feb. 17, 2011, "Chard Stem Soup". The conversation chat here could make for a "48 Hour Film Project" or a Project Greenlight Director's Contest (if they had another one).

(See Dec. 9, 2010: "It Takes a Long Time to Become a Good Composer")

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