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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Michael Vincent Waller, Five Easy Pieces

First of all, a note of appreciation for all those young composers embarking on a career, trying to make their way in a world where composing for a living is no easy matter. One such composer today is Michael Vincent Waller. He dwells in and around New York City and has put together an EP of a compositional suite for solo piano, Five Easy Pieces (Bandcamp). It is music that suggests a stance that is rather post-Glassian. There is a certain amount of repetition but mostly that repetition varies and develops. There is symmetry, its opposite, and an emphasis on scalular melody.

The music makes use of scales and primal harmonies that at once suggest traditional Asian music and also some of the impressionists' stock-in-trade, such as whole-tone scales.

You can imagine this music being played by a koto, or sometimes a gamelan orchestra. It revels in somewhat simple means, expressed simply. But it is by no means formulaic.

Like the earlier volumes of Bartok's Mikrokosmos, it would seem to have real pedagogic utility for the pianist getting underway in his or her studies--the intermediate beginner. It would give students another entryway into some of the tonal music of today, giving them experience with asymmetrical and symmetrical phrasings in alternation. And the music is evocative enough to give them pleasure.

As for the listener this is music that is not uninteresting. But it does seems to me to show a musical style under construction, an edifice just beginning to show its own special images but by no means complete.

Japanese pianist Gumi Shibata and Chinese pianist Jenny Q. Chai share the performance duties on this 24-minute EP. They sound fine. Like the earlier volumes of Mikrokosmos, these pieces seem like waystations on a journey to a more involved and complicated style, something to challenge a young pianist and be rewarding to hear.

I await further developments and wish Michael Vincent Waller much success and good fortune.

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