What are you looking for in pieces of new piano music? Christopher Oldfather

What are you looking for in pieces of new piano music? Christopher Oldfather

Christopher Oldfather
Photo by Maggie Oldfather

There a number of things that I like and don’t like in piano music, and music in general. My personal opinions actually have very little to do with what music I do or don’t end up playing. But first I can think of three big things that, for purely practical reasons, make the possibility of actually performing a given piece either greater or smaller.

First is length.

There is very little chance that I will play anything over 15′ long. I don’t do recitals, so a Phrygian Gates, or The People United, are pretty useless to me. Usually solo pieces are space fillers for longer chamber recitals.

Second is difficulty.

I mean, really. It’s not that I demand sight-readable music, but if I can get it under my fingers in a couple of weeks, as opposed to a couple of years, then I am much more likely to play it.

Third is paraphernalia.

I am very interested in not roaring around the countryside assaulting pianos with various implements. I politely and stubbornly suggest that if you want special sounds that are not necessarily piano sounds, then you might consider writing for something other than piano. But I don’t at all mind doing stuff to the strings that I can do seated, with my hands. The pain-in-the-ass factor is very large here. Also, the same goes for prerecorded tapes, sequencers, and the like. Electronics, with very rare exceptions, require a technician.

As to more musical matters, I really, really do like almost everything I play. It is professionally extremely useful for me to suspend judgment on every piece I meet. I have absolutely no objective standard about the quality of a piece of music. Now, you will see a contradiction between this paragraph and the first one, but both statements are absolutely true. Deal. For me, all in all, the issues are practical.

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