Stephen Scott: The Inside Story

Stephen Scott: The Inside Story

Friday, November 12, 2004—4:30-5:30 p.m.
The American Music Center

Videotaped by Randy Nordschow
Transcribed by Randy Nordschow and Frank J. Oteri

The Bowed Piano Ensemble

Like much of the music I love, Stephen Scott’s music first entered my life on an LP. It was over 20 years ago, when I was a DJ at Columbia University’s radio station WKCR. Stephen Scott’s LP, New Music for Bowed Piano, arrived in the mail with two others—one featuring music by Ingram Marshall, the other by Paul Dresher—all on a record label I had never heard of before called New Albion. In the years since, I’ve actively followed the careers of all three, both as a listener and someone who writes about music. I’ve talked with Ingram for NewMusicBox and I’ve written program notes about Paul Dresher. But, until now, I was never able to verbally catch up with Stephen Scott until he came to visit us at the American Music Center.

In some ways, Stephen Scott is the most methodical of these three postminimalist composers who all made minimalism less methodical in very different ways. Not in terms of compositional techniques, but in terms of his sonic vocabulary: all of his work on recordings and most of the music he composes is for his own ensemble of musicians who bow, hammer, scrape, and do any number of other activities inside a grand piano.

To this day, aside from this brief video of his piece Entrada, I’ve never “seen” his music live. Live performances of his music are not so easy to come by due to specialization involved, but every recording that’s ever come out has been in heavy rotation at home. I’m a huge fan so I had a million questions to ask him about minute details of how this music is conceived and executed. This talk gets very detailed—sort of an everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-insides-of-a-piano-and-weren’t-afraid-to-ask approach—and, as such, is a bit of an indulgence. But I think it’s an indulgence worth indulging. Listen to the music and watch the video, and you’ll find yourself asking some of the questions I did.


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