History tells us that Imaginary Landscape No. 1, composed by John Cage in 1939, was one of the first-ever electroacoustic compositions. Along with muted piano and Chinese cymbal, Cage included in the brief work’s instrumentation two variable-speed phonograph turntables and frequency recordings. The goal, according to Cage, was to introduce unpredictability into his music while eliminating personal preference. Four more Imaginary Landscape pieces followed, with Cage deploying amplified wire coils, recordings of generators, and, eventually, radios. The resulting sounds were, and still are, positively otherworldly.
The French pianist Vanessa Wagner had Cage in mind when she recorded Stratea, her languorously beautiful 2016 collaboration with Murcof, a Mexican electronic artist and Nortec Collective veteran now based in Spain. Wagner played compositions by Cage, Erik Satie, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, and other prominent composers associated with various strains of minimalism; Murcof responded with textures and treatments that altered, complemented, and sometimes engulfed the sounds Wagner produced.
Both Cage’s example and that latter-day collaborative tribute by Wagner and Murcof resonate in the pianist’s newest project: Inland, The very title of the album – the 50th release from French imprint InFiné, due for released on April 26 – is meant to evoke Cage’s prescient electroacoustic inventions. Yet perhaps paradoxically, Wagner returns on the new album to straightforward acoustic piano performance, lavishing her instrument’s rich sound on pieces by Philip Glass, Gavin Bryars, Meredith Monk, Nico Muhly, and others.
And now, thanks to Wagner and InFiné, you can listen to an exclusive premiere of one track from the album: “The Heart Asks Pleasure First,” a selection from the well-known and widely admired original score Michael Nyman composed for Jane Campion’s 1993 film, The Piano.
About her choice to perform and record the Nyman selection, Wagner offered the following statement via email:
“The hit of The Piano that I heard a thousand times, that I loved to my great surprise to rediscover. I pulled the piece towards a softer, poetic sound, the sound of a ‘classical’ musician, quite far from Nyman’s own ‘pop’ sound. It is a wave, soft and fluffy, which submerges and comes with its colours and sea spray to tell of an inner flight.”
If you’d like to hear more from Inland, visit the InFiné Bandcamp page, where you can stream selections by Louis Hardin (a.k.a. Moondog) and Bryce Dessner. You also can hear those tracks on Spotify and other streaming music services.
InFiné will release Vanessa Wagner’s Inland in LP, CD, and digital download formats on Friday, April 26; for more information, visit infine-music.com.
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