REVIEW: Alt + Piano Literature

2 Oct

Review by Veronika Krausas

On Thursday night September 29th our new Catalysis Projects member ARON KALLAY had his Alternative Piano Literature Recital at USC’s Newman Concert Hall.  It was of my favorite concerts of the year!

Aron with his teapot and pianos at Newman Concert Hall

The concert started with Tom Flaherty’s Shepherd’s Pi for toy piano and electronics.  And what a toy piano!  It was the Ferrari of toy pianos – bright red and Kallay wailed on this red zoomer!

Then Kallay moved over to a retuned piano for Bill Alves’ Paths of the Wind followed by a classical, The Perilous Night for prepared piano by John Cage.  And the culinary highlight of the concert was Alvin Lucier’s Nothing if Real (Strawberry Fields) for piano, amplified teapot, tape recorder, and miniature sound system.  Lucier wrote an arrangement of the Beatle’s Strawberry Fields.  First the pianist plays a fragmented version on the piano and it is recorded and played back through a small loudspeaker hidden inside a teapot.  During the playback, the lid of  the pot is raised and lowered, changing the audibility and resonance.  It was wonderful to have a lovely ceramic teapot (whose lid you could sometimes hear as it was replaced on top of the pot.)  Kallay also positioned the pot on the lovely red sports car … I mean toy piano!


The second half included Annie Gosfield’s Lightning Slingers and Dead Ringers – a monster of a work that grooves and at the same time challenges the listener with a complex and compelling aural tapestry.

The concert had a grand finale by the other new Catalysis Project’s artists in residence Isaac Schankler.  The piece was Man on Wiire, an acrobatic work that demands tremendous agility and precision from the pianist.  I forgot to mention that Aron (aka the pianist) has a Nintendo Wii controller strapped to his right forearm.  This fancy schmancy device monitors the performer’s movements and electronically modulates the piano’s sound.  When the performer is most at rest, it’s more of a basic piano sound. When there’s greater movement by the pianist, there are greater disturbances.  Schankler writes “much like the disturbances of a taut wire as the tightrope walker makes his way from end to end.”

It was a superb concert – welcome to Catalysis Projects boys!

He used to raise a storm in a teapot.                                                                                                                               – Marcus Tullius Cicero

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