Thursday, September 28, 2006

Poet and novelist Will Alexander performed a series of what he calls “vertiginous equilibria” on piano last night at Mills Hall on the Mills College campus in Oakland. To those familiar with the energetic disjunctions of Will’s surrealist texts, his approach to the piano might seem surprising. While it consists of solo improvisation, and so remains in some sense related to surrealist automatism, dissonance is avoided and the notes (chords are absent in Will’s playing) are produced according to harmonic patterns. Indeed, Will’s piano playing engages in a mystical exploration of the scale. (To adopt the title of his first book, Will as a pianist remains a “vertical rainbow climber.”) Temporality is dissolved within a non-cumulative progression of notes: chance is not abolished but allowed to flourish within what seems like a single shimmering drop of sound. Comparisons can be made between Will’s pianism and the compositions of Gurdjieff, or those of American minimalists such as Terry Riley. The maximalism of Will’s poetry thus undergoes, in the minimalism of his piano playing, a sudden reversal of polarity. Here, there is no return to the “authorizing cadence” of tonalism, but a discovery of the destabilizing space between adjacent notes, which may be graphically located between the contingency of the alphabet (“A”) and the word “Tonalist” itself.


Post a Comment

<< Home