Celebrated pianist Lisa Moore, releases a new album with music by Julian De La Chica
Described as “brilliant and searching… beautiful and impassioned… lustrous at the keyboard” by The New York Times and Crowned “New York’s queen of avant-garde piano” and “visionary” by The New Yorker, the celebrated pianist Lisa Moore, releases a new album: DE LA CHICA: PRELUDES OP. 8 on March 1st 2018. The album, produced and published by independent record label Irreverence Group Music - is the Premiere Recording of New York based Colombian composer Julián De La Chica's Preludes Op. 8 for piano and synthesizer (with the composer on synthesizer). Pre - Order now here.
By Susan Campos Fonseca
"Post-minimalists" piano and Lisa Moore.
This is a post-minimal ambient music album. Labels are always double-edged swords, but they are sometimes useful for the manifestation of an ethical stance in composing. The term "post-minimalism" is often applied to the post 1980 productions of American composers John Adams, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, among others. As composer and critic Kyle Gann says, “the later music of previously minimalist composers separated the term into post-minimal, emphasizing the connotation of post as after; those who referred to a new style by younger composers applied to it the sleeker, more unified post-minimal” (The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Post-Minimalist Music, 2013).
Nonetheless, Kyle Gann finds common qualities between these post-minimalists and their previous generations: “I might add parenthetically that there is another repertoire of music, consisting of the 1940s music of John Cage and the later music of Lou Harrison, Alan Hovaness, and others, so similar to 1980s post-minimalism that I have sometimes jocularly referred to it as ‘proto-post-minimalist’.” (Ibid).
Gann’s analysis of proto and post-minimalism seems to me to have a special relevance, because it shows how the term does not refer to a single, homogeneous community, but to a diversity of technical and sound explorations within a certain aesthetic. Furthermore, it does not necessarily imply that the explorers, with their different backgrounds, consider themselves minimalists. We can find important examples of post-minimalism in the ambient or electronic works of Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Cluster, King Tubby, among others.
Without marrying any single label or 'ism', Moore has devoted a large portion of her 40 plus discography to some of the greatest composers in minimal, post-minimal, ambient, and electronic music. Examples include: Steve Reich’s Double Sextet and Music for 18 Musicians (Ensemble Signal, Harmonia Mundi) and City Life (Steve Reich Ensemble, Nonesuch); Philip Glass’ Mad Rush (Mad Rush Solo Piano, OMM); Brian Eno’s Music for Airports (Bang on a Can All-Stars, Cantaloupe); Annie Gosfield’s Lightning Slingers and Dead Ringers (Cantaloupe); David Lang’s Wed (Elevated, Cantaloupe); Julia Wolfe’s my lips from speaking (Dark Full Ride, Cantaloupe); Philip Glass’ Music in Fifths / Two Pages (Boac A-S, Cantaloupe); Terry Riley’s In C (Boac A-S, Cantaloupe), and more recently The Stone People (Cantaloupe) with music by John Luther Adams, Martin Bresnick, Julia Wolfe, Missy Mazzoli, and Kate Moore. The list continues to grow with this new album release of the Preludes Op. 8 for piano and synthesizer by New York-based Colombian composer Julián De La Chica.
These 14 preludes are an example of “sensorial-minimalism” and perhaps they are a continuation of the composer's exploration in his two recent cycles: the Nocturnal & Circular Images Op. 5 for piano (performed by the composer himself), and Experimentelle und Unbestimmte Lieder Op. 9 for soprano, piano and synthesizer (recorded by American soprano Rachel Hippert). In these works, and his piano Preludes, Mr. De La Chica organically oscillates between post-minimal and ambient music.
Lisa Moore and piano research
It might be said that each epoch engenders new bodies of both performers and listening audience, a notion the constant evolution of music supports. Lisa Moore presents a form of piano art that challenges itself and views virtuosity as a technical practice guided by the search for sound. The repertoire ultimately becomes a way to incorporate the pianist’s body and way of listening, evolving side by side with sound and movement in time.
Every new school exists because it engages in a dialogue with tradition. Italian pianist and musicologist Luca Chiantore reminds us, for instance, that “what is modern about Beethoven’s research is that which the music score does not say: a reflection of the physiological components of the performance, the equilibrium of forces that the performer establishes with the keyboards, something that can also be produced in pages of great simplicity” (Beethoven al piano, 2010). I daresay, without a trace of historiographical reserve, that Lisa Moore’s work exemplifies that dialogue between new exploration and the rigorous development of traditions and performance practice.
Colombian anthropologist Ana María Arango calls this process “pensar sonoro-corporal” (“corporeal sound thinking”) (Prácticas y saberes sonoro-corporales de la primera infancia en la población afrochocoana, 2014); she refers to the kinds of music (chanting, dances) that our mothers used to help build our bodies from our early childhood. This idea opens up the possibility for reflection on how music contributes to the diversity of bodies and cultures (topics often ignored or diminished within the musical conservatory curriculum, since they tend to focus exclusively on imposing homogeneous models and concrete repertoires to control/construct/discipline musicians’ bodies). Lisa Moore’s pianistic repertoire practice, and her continuous exploration beyond the limits of these models, offer the opportunity to ask ourselves, as Mr. Chiantore suggests: to what degree can we use modern practice and implied freedoms to re-interpret music, and, how does the physiology of performance determine such modernity?
Why decolonize post-minimalism?
Julián De La Chica’s Preludes Op. 8 for piano and synthesizer were composed in New York City between 2015 and 2017. About these works, the author says: “The Op. 8 cycle is a process that improvises the image that is not there. The hidden image that creates emotion, truth and reality… The Preludes are an exploration of another kind of virtuosity... the virtue of sound. What lays behind, what we do not see.” The composer proposes his idea, then Lisa Moore’s performances creates a dialogue that involves her piano research and corporeal sound thinking.
Now, when we speak about post-minimalism, the presence of Latin American composers is rather scarce, and those who do work under this aesthetic are thought of as un-representative, since their music is not considered “ethnic” enough. However, minimalist, post-minimalist, and ambient composers have not denied that their own technical and sound research owes a great deal to the study of non-Western sound traditions. This has stimulated a debate about innovation processes based on ideas coming from other traditions, not founded on Western models of musical thinking, but applied to them with the purpose of renovating them. Uruguayan composer Coriún Aharonián (1940-2017), was especially critical about these procedures; he argued that they perpetuate the colonial character of Western music.
“The Op. 8 cycle is a process that improvises the image that is not there. The hidden image that creates emotion, truth and reality… The Preludes are an exploration of another kind of virtuosity... the virtue of sound. What lays behind, what we do not see” — Julian De La chica.
Is it possible to decolonize minimalism? Or rather, is it possible to decolonize “avant-garde music”? I raise the question because if Lisa Moore creates new paradigms with her performances, what are the consequences of the fact that she records an album of music by a Latin America composer such as Julián De La Chica—whose music may be considered post-minimal and ambient? Are the centers of power determining legacy and tradition in Western music even under question?
Essentially, what the score does not say is materialized in Lisa Moore’s unique sound-corporeal reflection as a piano performer.
You may ask yourself, what does this really mean? Well, the answer is simple. The myth of Western European musical superiority, that idea that innovation had to begin in Europe and from there trickle out into the rest of the world, was dismantled in the latter post-war half of the 20th century. Revolutions and struggles for civil rights confronted the repressing systems and the violence inherent in such myths.
Latin American philosophy also took part in those struggles. Decolonial thinking grew to exemplify this, as it critically analyses the matrix of colonial power which still persists in global capitalism, under the guise of totalizing forms of knowledge that reaffirm the dichotomy of the ruler and the ruled. Music is no exception to these processes. One can even state that the concept of music is in itself a colonizing tool for the suppression of non-Western sound traditions, because it imposed itself as universal, both in its written character as in the way it supposedly should be consumed.
Ms. Moore’s album demonstrates that decolonizing minimalism is possible, if viewed as an ethical and an aesthetic endeavor that exceeds geopolitical limits. Essentially, what the score does not say is materialized in Lisa Moore’s unique sound-corporeal reflection as a piano performer, and is what invites us to listen to these post-national times in which we now live.
Susan Campos-Fonseca, PhD
Composer and musicologist
Professor, Universidad de Costa Rica