Earle Brown

Music for Piano(s), 1951-1995

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AllMusic Review by

David Arden, pianist. Solo works and multi-tracked pieces. "Corroboree" for three pianos was composed during the winter of 1964 and refers to "a nocturnal festivity with songs and symbolic dances by which the Australian aborigines celebrate events of importance; a noisy festival, tumult" (Webster's Dictionary). Toward this effect, Brown used five kinds of piano sounds -- single notes, chords, hand and forearm clusters, pizzicato, and hand-muted sounds on the interior strings -- to make "a kind of sonic-spatial conversation." The overall effect is an arcing landscape of contrasting timbres -- delicate sounds (hand-muted clusters, interior pizzicati) suggest the instruments of non-Western cultures, telegraphic-repetitive rhythms become gradually more spaced, elegant arpeggios, sudden isolated sounds and nervous, rushing passages on the interior strings. "Folio" (1952-1953) is a set of three pieces for piano containing early and remarkable experiments in music notation and the performance process. They grew out of Brown's enjoyment of group and solo jazz improvisation, a desire to find a way out of metric music and his fascination with sculptor Alexander Calder's mobiles, how they were "variable but always the same." "25 Pages, for Any Number of Pianists Up to 25" (1953) is made of "fully described material, of pitch, dynamic and duration, in a relative sense" (Brown). Since the pitch is determined and the duration is relative -- notated in stem-less black notes with extended lines of varying lengths, each note with a specific dynamic marking -- the composer considers this work a true realization of his notion of the "open form" (as compared to the "open content" of the "Folio" pieces). There are five additional works also on this fascinating and long overdue CD.