Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chris Brown in his Primes

I don't have much to do with recordings, but I can recommend this new one, by Chris Brown, of his Six Primes for solo piano in a 13-limit just intonation, with each piece or movement in the set using a intervallically distinct subset of the tuning.  (This is mining resources in a very rich tonal vein; Douglas Leedy's masterful Pastorale for chorus and retuned piano four-hands uses a tuning differing from Brown's by only two notes (for intonation enthusiasts: the 13s in Six Primes take the place of syntonic comma-lowered tones in Pastorale.) Although Brown and I shared teachers at Santa Cruz, the classicist N.O. Brown and composer Gordon Mumma, we were some years apart (his performance of a Pousseur piano work and work with homemade electronics were legend by my time)  and have only met once or twice over the years, but each encounter with his music has been a strong one for me and this recording shows him at an exciting conjunction of long-term concerns, with what appears to my ears to be a potent balance between the compositionally strict and extemporaneous.