Pianist Lisa Moore had an open afternoon to speak about her new recording Stainless Staining featuring music by Donnacha Dennehy, and also about the upcoming full-concert debut of Grand Band, the new music supergroup that was formed for the Bang On a Can marathon featuring Moore and 5 other great pianists (among them Vicky Chow, Blair McMillen, Isabelle O’Connell, Paul Kerekes and David Friend) that you can catch on August 7th at 6:30 PM at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. She also talked about my favorite chamber duo she’s in known as TwoSense!
CM: Can you talk about the new release Stainless Staining?
Lisa: It’s the latest of a series of a 3-EP Set that I planned when I left the Bang On a Can All-Stars. Seven by Don Byron, Lightning Slingers and Dead Ringers by Annie Gosfield and this one is by Donnacha Dennehy. Donnacha wrote a piece called “Streetwalker” for the All-Stars, which was a very difficult piece–Very motoric piece with a lot of meter changes, and it was one of our really virtuosic pieces that we did a few times, and I got to meet Donnacha through this project. John Schaefer (WNYC) had discovered Donnacha and told Bang On a Can about him, and I liked him very much! We went to the same school–University of Illinois, and during the period where we were learning “Streetwalker”, I said “How about you write me a piano piece?”, and then he got the money from the Arts Council of Ireland, and was able to write “Stainless Staining” for me.
I had asked him for a piece that I could do with tape that did not need a click track, so that piece is possible to do that way. You can just run the CD and play along with it! It’s tricky without the click track, and it’s quite fast–there’s a lot of repeats and things, but it can be done, and I’ve done it. It uses a lot of de-tuned sounds and inside-piano sounds. It’s taken a while to put out as I’ve recorded it some time ago.
“Reservoir”, the other piece, was originally commissioned by Isabelle O’Connell, so I just decided to put that in because it was a contrast to “Stainless Staining”. I’m really happy with the project.
Donnacha’s like the “it” boy of Irish music. He didn’t study with Louis Andriessen, but he is influenced by that kind of minimalism.
John Adams: American Beserk (Greenwich House, NY; 5/19/09)
CM: The Grand Band sounded marvelous at Bang On a Can–Did that idea come about just for the marathon or was it intended to be something that would go on for a while?
Lisa: It came about for the marathon–Isabelle had that idea, and she wanted to have 6 pianos. I had already done Julia Wolfe’s “my lips from speaking” at her Dark Full Ride CD launch–Isabelle, Blair and I were in that. That day, Isabelle mentioned “Let’s do ‘Six Pianos’”, and I was like “Yeah, sure”–We were supposed to do it at last year’s marathon, but for various reasons we didn’t, so we got it together this year. We got a gig out of it for LPR on August 7th! We didn’t know it would have any legs, but we felt great about the performances, and so the dynamics of the group seem at least for now to be working quite well, so, it’s early days yet! How many gigs are you gonna get for 6 pianos?
These things are better just to be spontaneous rather than “Oh my gosh, I’ve got so much invested in this group with six pianos, let’s make it work! You do this, you do that!”, and it seems to just be falling into place with everyone just doing a little bit of everything. I’ve been chasing up the photos and I wrote the bio. Blair’s been doing the venue stuff. We still haven’t quite decided the program, but our biggest problem is where we are going to rehearse.
CM: Is it going to have to be six people for one piano? [laughs]
Lisa: We could, yeah! We’re going to do “Six Pianos” (Reich’s piece) again, and probably some Philip Glass and the Kate Moore piece “Sensitive Spot” for one piano and pre-recorded piano–We’d all play the same thing but slightly out of sync. The Glass piece will either be “Music in Similar Motion” or “Music in Fifths”.
Steve Reich: Six Pianos (excerpt; The Grand Band–Bang On a Can marathon rehearsal; Winter Garden, NY; 6/16/12)
CM: TwoSense, the duo with you and Ashley Bathgate, is always great to see! Anything new coming up on that front?
Lisa: We have a lot of outstanding pieces coming our way! Ryan Brown, Hannah Lash, and Daniel Felsenfeld are each writing pieces for October 4th at Roulette. We also have outstanding works coming from Paul Dresher, Jack Perla and Amy Kirsten.
At the moment, we don’t have management, but we do have some feelers out there! Ashley’s busy with Bang On a Can, and I’m busy, so we have a lot of different things on the fire, but we really enjoy playing together and we play well together! I think we have a really close musical and personal relationship together. We’ve gone through some initial teething problems, and come out the other end, so it’s been really great! We’d like to do much more stuff! [Photo of TwoSense at BOAC marathon courtesy of Glenn Cornett]
CM: What you guys have done so far is amazing! That piece “Prayers Remain Forever” written by your husband Martin Bresnick is such a powerful piece! Every time you guys play it, you look like you played for your lives. Like if you guys don’t play it well you’re going to get struck down by God or something, so let’s get it right!
Lisa: Struck down by Martin! [laughs]
CM: You guys are so visibly winded that I can see you guys look at one another thinking “Ohh, we got through that!” [both laugh]
Lisa: That’s because he writes it where you are always landing on the end of the beat, not on the beat often, and he’s constantly changing it, so there’s always this feeling of anticipation, and the chords are so beautiful in the way they change throughout, and the stuff at the end that sounds like an Indian raga–It’s very unexpected, and it takes unexpected but satisfying turns. He gave us the piece as a gift and we were very happy about that!
We already have new pieces composed for us by Kate Moore, Daniel Wohl, Stephen Feigenbaum, and Paul Kerekes which we have premiered–quite a bit of repertoire for piano and cello, which is really what we set out to do–get some concerts together, increase the repertoire and pair the new with the not-so-new Barber, Schumann, Prokofiev and Janacek. That’s also cool, because our education is in classical music as well, so we don’t want to throw that away. It was frustrating in Bang On a Can where we only played one type of music, really, and when you’re an educated musician, you pride yourself on diversity and don’t want to do just loud fast music.
Martin Bresnick: Prayers Remain Forever (TwoSense-Ashley Bathgate, cello; Lisa Moore, piano; Bargemusic, NY; 6/20/12)