Program Notes

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

14 X 14 (Revised 17 V 04)


Since 2010, I have been 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 what he had in mind, but I had no desire to abandon Just Intonation. The solution proved quite elegant: The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of The Eternal Process in The Midwinter Starfield takes harmonic exploration further than I’ve gone before, by highlighting the intervals of The Four Pillars present in the actual 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 rāga 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 work as a composer, and in his model, I have come to develop my own artistic language rooted in the tradition he pioneered.

The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of The Eternal Process in The Midwinter Starfield would not be what it is without the precedent set by 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 composition. 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 harmonically above the listener.

Trust and freedom are essential ingredients in my work. The performer must improvise freely and confidently within the guidelines I set up. They give each performance its own feeling conditioned by the time and place, and bring their own voice to bear on the reductive structures I set forth. Although this is the first work of mine Andy Lee has performed, he has shown extraordinary devotion to the composition. His sensitivity to the expressive powers of the tuning is unparalleled, and his improvisations soar to great heights with a true Minimum of material—seven 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 performances of The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of The Eternal Process in The Midwinter Starfield, commissioned and performed by R. Andrew Lee