Postcards From Our Futures (1989)

for piano and soundfiles
and optional video and video processing
(video 2003)
These three movements explore the idea of past and future related by memory and imagination. When I wrote this piece I hadn't been to any of the three cities, so for me they only existed in my future. However, adding dates to the names meant that I could never visit those specific places, as they were all in the past, and therefore only existed in my mind. The result was that, for me, both the past and future cities were joined by existing only in my imagination.

The first movement ­ Tokyo 1969 ­ carries the performance instruction "Ginza-gone-Reno glitz", as if the neon of the famous Tokyo district has been "tackified" even more. Two gestures are presented, one vertical and one linear, and they gradually expand, juxtapose and then merge in layers of rhythms and punctuations. The harmonies and accent patterns are meant to reflect the tackiness of the scene. (mp4)

Roma 1908 is based on a phrase from a cadenza in the aria Una Furtiva Lagrima, from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore. Two excerpts from the aria are heard, taken from the 1906 recording by Enrico Caruso. The actual cadenza is only heard in the middle of the piece, performed in transposed versions by the piano and soundfiles. The additional machine-like recordings ­ supported by the performance instruction "Wistfully pastoral, with neo-Euro-industrial overtones" ­ act as a foil to the implied aria. Unheard by the audience are Satie-esque performance commentaries written in the score for the performer's enjoyment. (mp4)

The final movement is New York 1953, with the performance admonition "Real gone hep cats 2 a.m. Greenwich Village, yeah, man, go-go-go"! The movement is almost an investigation of wrong notes, as the opening repeated pattern gradually breaks down, jumps off in different directions, bounces against the soundfiles, distorts, disappears, and then finally returns for a triumphant conclusion. This movement is quite demanding of the pianist, since the playback is unforgiving. (mp4)
The optional video component of this piece was added in 2003, at the suggestion of pianist Marguerite Witvoet. The first movement uses slide images of the Ginza district, taken by my father-in-law in February of 1970. For the second movement I purchased twenty antique Italian postcards dating from around 1900, and for the last movement I used postcards, advertisements, stamps, and aerial shots of New York, all from 1953. Each movement has periods in which no image is on screen: these allow the audience to focus on the music and the performer, as well as allowing spaces for optional real-time video processing to be included.
 ~ observations

"teeming with fertile ideas"
Mark Morris, Music Magazine

"a cassette of sensations"
"as brassy as a honky-tonk toccata"
Ronald Hambleton, The Toronto Star

"three well-contrasted and clever evocations"
Stephen Pedersen, Halifax Chronicle Herald

"chronologically dubious in its use of 1960's free-jazz clichés"
Alex Varty, Georgia Straight