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På skive


«For Piano and Shō»

Samuel Reinhard is a Swiss, New York-based composer whose background is in experimental electronic music but his current work is guided by minimalist and aleatoric tenets, emphasizing ongoing explorations of repetition and extended duration. His composition «For Piano and Shō» (2023) (the shō is a traditional Japanese bamboo reed instrument introduced into contemporary music by John Cage) investigates slow and still sounds while exploring the elongation of the piano’s decay as the shō’s clean harmonics. This delicate and ethereal composition asks us to alter our awareness and notice the small things that swell at the periphery of our attention when we reduce the density of inputs and settle into slower temporalities.

This most beautiful, enigmatic and hypnotic composition was recorded remotely – in Tokyo, when Reinhard was there in residence in 2023, by shō player and gagaku performer active in contemporary music Haruna Higashida and in Copenhagen by Canadian pianist Paul Jacob Fossum (who performed on Reinhard’s Two Pianos and String Trio, Präsens Editionen, 2023). Its first part is comprised of three pianos pursuing and repeating respective thread-like motifs, slowly encircling each other, each at their own pace. The pianos are accompanied by three shōs, playing individual notes and chords from a circumscribed pool of material and providing harmonic «reflections» of the melodic motifs played by the pianos. Together, the resulting material is ever-changing. In the second part, a piano moves through a trio of figures—an arpeggio, an improvisation, a chord—for the duration of the performance. Each iteration of this sequence is accompanied by a single shō, which freely selects and plays a note or chord, emerging from the piano’s first figure and disappearing into the third.

You can trace the seminal influence of Cage’s writings and Morton Feldman’s sparse and restrained compositions, but Reinhard focuses on finding the magical in stillness, silence slowness and repetition. Higashida and Fossum were instructed to hold notes through touch or breath until the sound decays, just like in deep meditation when the elusive sense of doing nothing allows you to be fully conscious of exactly where you are. «For Piano and Shō» suggests a shared act of listening, engaging the audience in a bond of concentrated and deep listening, and leaves its mark as an afterglow, a bright sensation of time stretched, when all the details and feelings that emerge from a world slowed.

Eyal Hareuveni

Haruna Higashida (shō), Paul Jacob Fossum (piano)