Review: Kupka’s Piano’s ‘Outer Sounds’

Alistair Noble has written some really wonderful and intelligent things about Kupka’s Piano’s latest concert ‘Outer Sounds’ over on Partial Durations.

Have a read: Kupka’s Piano: Outer Sounds.

Here’s what he says about my new piece ‘Si el clima’ and Alex’s no doubt incredible performance. Alistair raises a lot of good questions, none of which have definite answers, and it may well be that I try multiple versions of the one piece.

Brussels-based Australian composer Liam Flenady’s new work Si el clima fuera un banco (2015), for piano and fixed media (pre-recorded midi-piano and speaking voices), takes its inspiration from Hugo Chavez’ famous 2009 speech in Copenhagen, where he observed that ‘If the climate were a bank, they would have saved it already’. This is very interesting piece, which works with Flenady’s interests in politics and counterpoint to play with seeming oppositions such as refinement versus crudeness, complexity versus directness. The score is certainly fearsomely complex, and makes great demands of the pianist. Here, Raineri projected a very different quality of sound to that heard in the earlier works in the concert: less percussive, richer and warmer. As a result of this very beautiful sonority and Raineri’s confidence with the virtuosic score, Flenady’s music was revealed as luxuriantly poetic, even lyrical.

The combination of live and recorded/artificial piano is an interesting one, and the interactions between the two were intriguing. One cannot help wondering if this would be even more effective if the work was scored for two pianos…? Or perhaps that would be a different piece. I found the recorded voices to be most effective in a musical sense when the words could not quite be heard clearly… then, it felt as though the sounds (not merely words) of voices from another room were intruding, and commingling with the piano music. In a way, this raised another interesting question: does the work really need those voices, or could it succeed as a purely instrumental piano (or two-piano) work? For myself, I felt that the counterpoint of voices, together with the in- and out-of-room pianos evoked exactly that sense of permeability that seems ideally characteristic of music in our times, like an eggshell letting the oxygen in. What stayed with me long after was not the words or even the explicit political messages, but the expressivity of Raineri’s piano playing as the work seemed to breath in and out the fragrance and texture of disembodied voices.

Flenady writes in the program that his work ‘will have little impact on politics’, and in a sense that is true… but perhaps music affects us in a different way, in a different substance, on a different level. I’m not sure that we can measure such impact in the same way we measure political (or, for that matter, market) impacts. The power elites of our world would have us believe that music is just entertainment, thus powerless, but I think we should exercise caution in assuming that this is the case. Flenady’s music raised these final questions in my mind: What if music as an art form actually does have an impact? Would that change the way we do things?