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Friday, November 14, 2014

Tristan Perich, Surface Image, Vicky Chow

Classic minimalism continues to be with us in various guises. Today we encounter composer Tristan Perich and his hour-long work Surface Image (New Amsterdam 060). It is written for solo piano and 40-channel one-bit electronics. What makes an electronic part "one-bit?" Apparently it is electronic music that never has more than one-bit of information for each part at any time during its execution. So that means the 40-part electronic portion of this work consists of 40 single lines.

Surface Images sounds exactly that way in its electronic score. It is a 40-"instrument" blanket of articulated repetitions that play against a challenging piano part played with great facility here by Vicky Chow. This is music that through gradually changing repetitions gives us a sort of trance effect, as classical minimalism tends to do.

The piece begins with rapid figurations that repeat and evolve at a steady pace for the first 20 minutes, then increase in speed for another 10 minutes, entering into ultra-rapid figurations 30 minutes into the work. The music slows again in steps over the last part of the piece, leaving the listener in the end with a less dense, more introspective wash of sound. Then it is gone.

Vicky Chow literally has her hands full executing the continuous part and she responds with a marvelous performance that is precisely what it should be--mesmerising and rhythmically precise but also expressive.

Those who love the total, tonal trance environment of early instrumental Reich, Riley and such will find this a new wrinkle on "traditional" ground. It is pleasing and never banal, fairly dense and ever-shifting.

If minimalism leaves you flat you will not appreciate this, I suspect. All the rest of us have something quite appealing and intriguing to hear. Bravo to Ms. Chow. And bravo to Tristan Perich.

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