Prayers for a Feverish Planet

Vanishing (2020) – Stephen F. Lilly (United States)

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), sea levels rose 3.4 inches between 1993 and 2019. This was due in no small part to an increase in meltwater from the planet’s glaciers and ice sheets as well as thermal expansion within the world’s warming oceans. As a result of this and an uptick in extreme weather events, 5 of the Solomon Islands, 8 Micronesian Islands, and 1 island each in the Hawaiian and Japanese Archipelagos have disappeared in recent years in the Pacific Ocean alone. To acknowledge the existential threat man-made climate change is to island civilizations worldwide, Vanishing recasts the piano as a soft, delicate world out of balance. The pianist navigates an archipelago (real or imagined) with islands represented by pitch-based sonorities and the sea represented by an exaggerated version of the mechanical noises made by the pedals, keys, and dampers. These are noises that typically only support the instrument’s sonic output, but here, they rise to encroach upon the land. 

Ann adds: I love, love, love the unusual and non-traditional score – it’s a literal map. Almost all musical decisions are up to the performer. It’s a very cool concept. 

Stephen Lilly

Stephen F. Lilly

Stephen Lilly is a composer, performer, audio engineer, and amateur poet. His music ranges from “just dark” and “so demanding on the listener” (The Retriever) to “really more ‘performance art’…the sort of thing you are very glad to have experienced without necessarily wanting to revisit it” (The Washington Post). Stephen has degrees from the University of Idaho (composition/bass performance) and the University of Maryland (composition). He also spent a year studying electroacoustic music at the Institute of Sonology in The Hague. His work ranges from abstract and microtonal to theatrical and satiric; he mostly composes chamber music for friends and friends of friends as well as fixed media works for nobody in particular.

His writings on contemporary experimental music have been published in Organised Sound, Performance Research, Perspectives of New Music, and Computer Music Journal. Recordings of his compositions have been released by SEAMUS, the Society of Composers Inc., C7 Music and the New Mexico Contemporary Ensemble, while recordings he has engineered have been released on Neuma, Navona, and Albany Records. Furthermore, his scores are available through BabelScores. On a final note, Stephen used to teach but now just lives in DC, where he continues to compose and perform.