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Out Today: Pianist Jacob Greenberg Releases 'Bright Codes'


Featuring works By Fujikura, Williams, IONE, and Davis.

Out Today: Pianist Jacob Greenberg Releases 'Bright Codes'

Pianist Jacob Greenberg today releases his first solo disc, Bright Codes, on TUNDRA via New Focus Recordings. The album features exciting commissions for piano and harmonium written for Greenberg between 2013 and 2021 that premiered at venues such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Miller Theatre.

Composers Dai Fujikura, Amy Williams, IONE, and Nathan Davis all crafted works tailored to Greenberg's technique and imagination as a multi-keyboard player. The album also features soprano Tony Arnold in two works by Amy Williams.

Of the use of harmonium and its history, Jacob Greenberg says, "The small portable variety of harmonium is a core element of Indian classical music and is a modification of the large European instrument invented in the 1820s. The foot pedal bellows of the European model became a hand pump for the instrument that was imported to the Indian subcontinent; the internal brass reeds that receive air are the same in both versions. Two models of harmonium are used for this recording: a Delhi-style twin-reed instrument (male, bass) and a Kolkata-style triple-reed instrument (female, male, bass). Though notated Western music for the Indian instrument is rare, the harmonium shows an unquestionable affinity for the avant-garde, and is a rich medium for experimentation by today's composers."

Dai Fujikura says that composing for Jacob Greenberg allowed him to go somewhere within himself he had not visited before. His seven-minute White Rainbow (2016) for harmonium is the result of mutual exploration of the instrument by composer and performer. Equally expansive and sensitive to nuances of color, the piece is inspired by the natural phenomenon of a white rainbow-also called a fogbow-that is caused by the small droplets inside a cloud. These droplets are small, and the bows have only weak colors or are colorless. The novel harmonium techniques like sudden changes of registers, use of the ghostly octave coupler, and rhythmic pulsing with the jaali mute evoke the piece's atmospheric subject. Fujikura's Bright Codes (2015/2016) for piano took shape over four years, with each quiet miniature composed individually, yet intended to be played continuously with the others, without pause, in any order. Randy Ezratty and James Rosenfield provided essential funding for Bright Codes.

Amy Williams' Fünf Worte (2017) for harmonium and voice, featuring the soprano Tony Arnold, is a set of five intimate miniatures, each of which explores one-and only one-German word: I. Frühjahrsmüdigkeit, II. Fingerspitzengefühl, III. Verschlimmbessern, IV. Kuddelmuddel, and V. Sehnsucht. Williams' Cineshape 4 (2003) for piano explores virtuosic perpetual movement and repetition. It is directly modeled on the structure and certain narrative elements of the 1998 film Run Lola Run. Like the film, the piece starts in exactly the same way three times, but develops in starkly different ways. Cineshape 4 was co-commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble for the 50th anniversary of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The author and poet IONE's The Memory of Now (2021), for harmonium with sonic vocals performed by the composer, is a text score that invites musical improvisation in a ritual manner. As the voice intones directions for interior reflection, it reacts spontaneously to the resulting sounds that portray states of memory. The effect is a unique chamber music partnership. IONE says, "The player or players are invited to listen to external and internal sounds without judgment, while allowing momentary states of being to flow freely."

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