Prayers for a Feverish Planet – Program Notes I.

Tatev Amiryan • Krists Ausnieks • Lawrence Axelrod • Juhi Bansal • Daniel Blinkhorn

Tatev Amiryan, Armenia                                           

Berkano (2018)

Berkano (Berkanan) is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the b rune ᛒ, meaning “birch.” It is associated with healing birch tree, the first tree to awaken in the springtime. Thus the Berkano rune is about the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. It symbolizes new beginnings, renewal, recovery, healing, and life changes, physical and spiritual birth and rebirth, fertility and growth, motherhood, and sacral wisdom. Berkano has the energy of a birch grove, and is a hidden sanctuary in times of need. 

Ann adds: while not explicitly about climate change, I am drawn to the spiritual ideas in this piece, the cyclical elements represented, the idea of healing, and the musical use of space and time.

Krists Ausnieks, NY/Latvia                                       

Water (2017)

Look for notes, listen to them somewhere in the distance. The principal sonority of the piece makes the pianist spread his fingers in such a way that they resemble angel’s wings. Each wing is a also a reflection of the other. 

What is water? 

a river, rain, faucet dripping, a sprinkler, a fountain, waterfalls, wet hands, snow, vapor, steam, pebbles, a stone touching the surface of a lake, drowning, fumes in water, drenched silk, tears , sfumato, blood, flow, a brook, sperm, watercolors, ice crystals, water as a metaphor for time, saliva, water as a symbol of will, blue or transparent, water breaking, flashes of light reflected in water, ripples, eddies, sweat, droplets, flood, aqueducts, wells, baptism, water signs, coconut water and petrichor. 

The protagonist doesn’t drown, the book that the story is in does! Or the rock that has been listening to those many lives of humans, all the same; it falls in the lake with all the tales it has accumulated over eons, it is a plunge! Who will be there to tell that forgotten story to the next generation? No one? Will we have to make the same humane human mistakes all over again? The rock falls in love and this is an ode to that.            

Ann adds: this is one of the pieces on the program that uses some auxiliary “equipment” to be performed. While not aleatoric, there is flexibility in regard to timing of some of the piece, while other passages are notated rhythmically. Let yourself be immersed in the flow of the water.

Lawrence Axelrod, United States                               

Talking to Trees, VI. Zephyr (2020)

This series of short pieces began as a pandemic project. In March 2020, New York pianist Adam Marks put out a call for one-page pieces to composers. He would learn, record in his living room and then post these pieces online. In that odd quiet period, I took solace in the view of trees, then bare, in the park outside my building.

After I wrote the first piece, there seemed to be more to say. These beings who support us in so many ways kept speaking. So I wrote five more short pieces over the next several weeks, trying to connect to both the physical reality of the trees as well as the crucial role in the environment that they play.            

Ann adds: There are several pieces about trees that were submitted for my call. Here the Zephyr, the soft gentle breeze, can be heard rustling the branches and leaves. 

Juhi Bansal, India/Hong Kong                                   

Land of Waking Dreams (2018)

Inspired by the night sky seen from the desert backcountry, Land of Waking Dreams borrows the shapes, gestures and colors of a murmuring nightscape. Pointillistic stars and murky clouds against a carpet of shifting blues. Whistling wind across open plateaus, silence and a deep resonance.

Ann adds: While not explicitly about climate change, this piece evokes ideas and images for me that are related. Poetic and somewhat lonely, with wonderful colors and textures. More than one piece in the series is about twilight/evening/nighttime, with those associations: nostalgia for what was, the darkness that accompanies night. Also, I do enjoy extended techniques, and this piece is the first I’ve ever played that requires a chain on the strings inside the piano.

Daniel Blinkhorn, Australia                                                   

frostbYte – chalk outline (2015): A work for piano, Arctic video footage, Arctic and electroacoustic sounds

Commissioned by Zubin Kanga

Work synopsis: chalk outline is electroECOustic and videophonic in nature, using the Svalbard coastline (and the idea of an outline in a more generalised sense) as a metaphorical reference to the (antiquated) forensic technique of drawing a chalk outline around the deceased. The piece is an example of how I often integrate the differing disciplines of sound and image to create a sense of advocacy about the importance of places and spaces mediated via technology, sonification and visualisation.

Central to the piece are location-based field recordings I made whilst on expedition throughout the Arctic region of Spitsbergen | Svalbard. Positioned at 81° north, 10° East, the archipelago of Spitsbergen | Svalbard is a truly remarkable part of the world that continues to inspire awe and fascination, and is often at the heart of our collective consciousness for its ecological and climatic sensitivity.

The region is renown for its visual and cinematic beauty, however it should be no surprise to find that sound plays an integral and vital role in the uniqueness of the region. From the smallest sounds of popping and hissing as snow and ice melt, to the raucous thundering of glacial ice calving, sound is bonded to each and every ecosystem in the archipelago.

Ann adds: I find the combination of piano, electroacoustics, and video really powerful in this piece. There are moments of utter beauty and moments of sheer terror.