Program Notes

The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of The Eternal Process in The Midwinter Starfield | 14 X 14


Since 2010, I have been developing and refining a set of tuning theories I call The Four Pillars. Over five years and many compositions, I’ve begun to uncover their expressive potential. The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of The Eternal Process in The Midwinter Starfield represents a new level of reductionism in my work, looking at the vertical structure of the tuning as the composition itself.

When R. Andrew Lee approached me about writing a new piece, we knew that tuning a piano to Just Intonation, as I had done for Aqua Madora, would not be practical with his touring and concert schedule; I also didn’t want to abandon Just Intonation entirely. The solution proved quite elegant: The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D… takes harmonic exploration further than I’ve gone before, by listening to the intervals of The Four Pillars exclusively as overtones of the Ds on the piano. Through careful amplification and filtering, the entirety of my chord can be heard vibrating within a single pitch of the instrument.

In 2003, I began studying with Khan Sahib La Monte Young, the grandfather of Minimalism and a driving force behind uncompromising music of long duration and exact tuning. His mentorship encouraged tendencies already present in my work, and when I began to study Raga singing with him and Marian Zazeela, and later also with Jung Hee Choi, my life was changed forever. The visionary example set by Young has been instrumental to my development as a composer, and through his example, I have come to develop my own artistic language rooted in the tradition he pioneered.

The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D… owes its existence to the work of my Guru, La Monte Young, and particularly his magnum opus, The Well-Tuned Piano. The form, a sort of dialog between melodic and drone performance, is principal to this new work. The drone sections are inspired by the technique Khan Sahib created for producing what he calls "Clouds" in The Well-Tuned Piano. In my work, this technique is expanded into the electronic realm, extending the resonance of the piano to create complex and subtle multi-note chords that inhabit the space and swirl above the audience.

I work with a small number of musicians whose judgment I absolutely trust. They improvise within the guidelines I set up, giving each performance its own character and feeling dependent on the time and place of performance. Although this is the first work of mine Andy Lee has performed, his sensitivity to the expressive powers of the tuning is unparalleled, and his improvisations are able to soar to great heights with a true Minimum of material—eight powerfully expressive keys on a piano.

This work is dedicated, with humble reverence, to La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela whose light and sound shine eternally through my life.


Written to accompany the world premiere of The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of The Eternal Process in The Midwinter Starfield commissioned by R. Andrew Lee through the Hatchfund campaign Commissioning Music of Considerable Duration