Bellows Pumped, the Bottom Approaches

Bellows Pumped, the Bottom Approaches

[performed live by Mart Epstein and the composer]
instrumentation :  piano 4-hands

duration :  17’40”
written for Marti Epstein
premiere :  4.13.09 by Marti Epstein and the composer, Boston


I. Bellows Pumped
II. Ploughs Unhitched
III. Cadences
IV. Plateau
V. On the Ground

        Percussionist Steve Schick said that he feels the music of Xenakis has influenced even composers who came before him. Xenakis’ music represents an aesthetic ideal which other composers have strived to attain. Schick says that this ideal defines Xenakis squarely as a composer detached from the 19th century.
        I read Schick’s “19th century” as referring to a directionality and energy present in most Western music. The experience of listening to a piece is a transmission of kinetic musical energy into potential emotive energy, and finally into kinetic emotive energy on the part of the listener. I read this just days ago, and it was a beautiful coincidence that it corresponded with me thinking about describing my piece.
        In this work, I wanted to write music where energy does not operate like a pendulum. Each section is either an expulsion of energy, and intake, or the plateau at the bottom. The experience of writing these was an immersion in sounds, not music. This feels spiritual, and is as close as I have come to a religious experience. When I write sounds that I love, I feel my heartbeat and breathe change, in regularity and intensity. I want this piece to read as an exhalation—the moment of anticipation before the intake of vital air.