Discover more from Many Arrows Music Notes
the bitKlavier Commissions: Nate May
Meditations and Hypnagogic Mirages, with some Ghostly Moto Perpetuo to boot...
Next up in the bitKlavier Commissions is Nate May. Nate was an early-adopter of bitKlavier and wrote a pair of beautiful pieces for the instrument back in 2016; here is one, Cygnet, the makes compelling use of silent keys and reverse Nostalgic notes:
The score and gallery for Cygnet (2016) are included with bitKlavier, so just look there if you want to try this out.
For the bitKlavier Commissions, Nate created two fascinating pieces. One of the things I love about both of these pieces is that I had to study the bitKlavier galleries to have a clue what was going on; most of the time, when I hear a piece for bitKlavier (including my own), and can imagine quite quickly how the instrument is setup to sound the way it does, but that was quite a struggle for Nate’s pieces, which are gloriously mysterious. If you are interested, download and check out the galleries for these pieces; they are beautifully designed: simple in a certain way, but rich and hard to reverse engineer.
Regarding the first, So Shrunk My Sinews, Nate says:
I’m not sure if this piece is comforting or terrifying, if it’s full of boundless joy or apocalyptic destruction. It’s definitely full of something. What do you think?
And Cristina Altamura, who recorded the piece, follows with:
In So Shrunk My Sinews, Nate took a cue from Debussy poking fun at the “Gradus ad Parnassum” tradition combining maniacal organ player and Czerny piano exercise rolled into one. There are also several fun “Mozartian” cadenza flourishes that end multiple sections.
What's exciting as a pianist is that the score is written in moto perpetuo with alberti-like figures that furiously persist throughout, but the listener only hears a shadow of that because the keys trigger so many other sounds creating a blended texture. This compositional device, which is unique to bitKlavier (to my knowledge), reminds me of Trueman's Prelude No. 1 Inside Out in which the virtuosity is visual/physical while the sounds are lugubrious and stretchy.
Check it out, see what you think!
So Shrunk My Sinews, by Nate May, performed by Cristina Altamura
The second of Nate’s pieces—Swift Messengers—is a glorious meditation, and one that is categorically different to play than just listen to. Cristina, who also recorded this one, says:
Playing Swift Messengers is an exercise in mindfulness. Although it seems to move in slow motion, I found myself actively making a myriad of micro-decisions that kept me in the moment and were shaped by what the “me” in the audience was hearing. I feel transformed after each “play through” similar to the effect of a good meditation sitting.
Nate says the following about it:
“Hypnagogic” is the effect I was cultivating for this piece: the feeling just before falling asleep, where taps and tinkles have that sensory meridian tingle and breath finds a slow ebb and flow. The sounds for this piece come entirely from wine glasses that I either struck with a pencil or bowed with a violin bow.
Have a listen, and then download the galleries and meditate with it yourself:
Swift Messengers, by Nate May, performed by Cristina Altamura
I’ll write about some other work I’ve been doing where creating listening, meditative spaces (usually with bitKlavier) is a leading intention; more on that soon. In the meantime, enjoy Nate’s wonderful pieces here!
Thanks for reading Many Arrows Music Notes! Subscribe for free if you like!