From David Shea
“The Piano has been an instrument that has woven its way in and out of my life since I was a child. I grew up listening to great classical and jazz players, prepared piano and electronic experiments, extended techniques and later the incredible works of Boulez, Stockhausen, Cage, Ligeti, Ferrari, Feldman, Xenakis and Scelsi. I had written for and worked with many great pianists and created ensemble works with piano and electronics where I was given the freedom to write complex pieces for gifted musicians and technical masters. Although I would often compose on piano and use simpler piano works in my own solo concerts I had never dedicated myself to a path of the endless intense practice of a single instrument that these pianists had. I always wanted to stay on the level of composing for the whole of a work and not potentially get lost in the maze of technical issues that these musicians excelled at.
And then one day Lawrence English suggested that I put out a CD of Piano works.
I had recorded, on many of my other CDs, extended piano pieces with good pianists so I thought ‘piano solo pieces, all acoustic‘. A real challenge when so much has been written for such an iconic instrument, one so loaded with historical weight.
What I didn’t realise at the time was that Lawrence was asking me to be the pianist. This is not only something I never considered but although I’ve always played and performed on keyboards in my solo and ensemble works, I never took on the huge task of being able to play the technically challenging (at least by my standards) the type of scores I had written for others.
So I spent the next year unravelling my past approach to composing for piano and explored my own physical technique. No preparations, no samples, no extended electronics or reliance on my past sample acoustic techniques. The result of this year of practice, writing, listening, exploring and recording is this CD.
Whether or not it is significant that a work is purely acoustic, prepared or electro-acoustically treated, fully composed or improvised, extended or played traditionally etc, were not the central issues for me. It was this time spent with the piano, the ritual of playing and this re-working of my own physical and conscious process that forms the core of these pieces.”