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40 Years and One: Philip Corner Plays the Piano

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Album Review

This CD documents a handful of compositions by Philip Corner, once a member of the seminal avant-garde group Fluxus, and like John Cage, he's an important figure in the redefinition of the piano language and the use of graphic score. 40 Years and One: Philip Corner Plays the Piano was recorded in February 2001, but some of the pieces are 40 years old. The CD is split in two parts: first a series of short pieces, then two 20+ minute tracks. Of the short works, the most interesting ones are "7 Joyous Flashes" and "Concerto for Housekeeper." The former, a suite of seven short vignettes, contains vivacious outbursts of atonal freedom. The latter, a scripted piece, requires the performer to clean the instrument. The other short works are mostly 12-tone exercises. "Pulse: A 'Keyboard Dance'" uses ever-growing tone clusters to create expansion effects. Corner's sense of humor shines here as he ends the piece by "seguing" into "C Major Chord." The score stipulates that "You can do anything you like provided it is a C Major chord" and that's what happens: The pianist repeats the three notes of his arpeggio (adding an octave here and there) with or without the pedal depressed, modifying tempo and dynamics. For "Perfect (On the Strings)," Corner plays various resounding objects (mostly bowls and bells) directly on the strings. If not strikingly original (Cage aside, one thinks of Denman Maroney, Sophie Agnel, and other avant-garde pianists), the piece features strikingly beautiful resonances. All in all, 40 Years and One: Philip Corner Plays the Piano makes a good testimony of his art. ~ François Couture, Rovi


Born: April 10, 1933

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Many of Corner's scores from the early '60s were partly verbal instruction and partly graphic fragments for open improvisation ensembles -- for example, Passionate Expanse of the Law, This Is It This Time (scores hung on string throughout orchestra),...
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