Richard Povall

Richard Povall: Impossible Rags

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Richard Povall's Impossible Rags contains two works. The title piece, in four parts, is a composition for two Disklaviers (Yamaha's computer-controlled MIDI grand piano) based on ragtimes dating back to the turn of the 20th century. They come from the early times of ragtime when the genre was still full of syncopation, and Povall works around the original compositions (by Scott Joplin, Arthur Marshall, Kerry Mills, and Raymond Birch), turning them into strange hybrids of dusty saloon mechanical piano tunes and cutting-edge computer music. Even if they are seriously warped, the rags are never lost in the process and the listener is constantly solicited by this anachronism. The piano part is mirrored, detuned, dephased, recombined, and deconstructed through algorithms and pieced back together again. It sounds cold and artificial (even more when compared to later Disklavier works like those found on Michael Snow's Snow Solo Piano Solo Snow), but the oddity of source and process make it worthwhile. The second work on this CD is "Enclosure," a 20-minute ambient piece. Using concrete sounds, this composition is played live. The piece develops slowly into a dense soundscape. No need to say the contrast with the previous piece is enormous and the listener can't help but feel a bit destabilized.

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