All notes written by Jennifer June Strawn | Notes on Looking

Part 2- A Lateral Wind

Étude means ‘study’ in French.  Merriam-Webster tells me that the word refers to 1. a piece of music for the practice of a point of technique, and 2. a composition built on technical motive but played for its artistic value.  My approach to the Piano Spheres event, Amour D’Etudes, featuring the hugely talented pianist Steven Vanhauwaert, was quite different than the last.  I guzzled a beer at the bar before grabbing a program on my way into the theater, and sat down with a conspicuous case of the burps in the front row, where I was on the receiving end of the open Yamaha.  The piano was perpendicular to the audience this time, placing the player in true profile.  The stage felt less atmospheric; the lighting was simple and elegant, just four bare, elongated bulbs hung on wires above the piano, giving off soft, tame light that did not change throughout the performance.  Two directional mics with cables loosely draped and pooled at their bases were aimed inside the open piano body.  Those cables looked oddly sad to me.  Casual and indifferent, like a super long and lean person slumped over the back of a low chair, arms dangling carelessly.  My own mood was somewhat dangling that evening, as well. Vanhauwaert emerged from the wings with a practiced gait and sat down on the bench ceremoniously after bowing once, his hand on the front corner of the piano.  I took few notes and followed the program closely, which was wise since Vanhauwaert played études by fifteen different composers.  Each was over in a flash.  I jotted short descriptions here...

Part 1-Contemplating the Cosmos

The first of the two Piano Spheres performances that I attended at REDCAT was Ces Espaces Infinis, a collection of short solo piano pieces curated and performed by Nic Gerpe, a genuinely charming LA-based concerto soloist, chamber musician and proponent of new music.  One critic has referred to Gerpe as “appropriately spacey and far-out” and I concur, insofar as his apparent taste in music goes. I was in the younger third of the audience at REDCAT, a small theater where, previously, I had only been for film screenings.  The audience was sparse.  I sat in the middle near the front.  A spotlight treated with a laid scrim threw dramatic, lattice-textured light onto the grand Yamaha on the stage, its lid open and its guts reflected precisely in a mirror-like, high-lacquer finish.  Black and gold and white.  Sinews and muscle.  An eye into the belly of the beast. Two young, male music students sat behind me.  Another joined, apparently familiar with one of the others, and the three of them made awkward, impassioned conversation about their instruments, their music, and the music we were about to hear.  The third boy and the one less familiar to him forged a palpable connection during the brief moments when it was safe to talk, and I imagined the planting of a seed of triangulation among this trio; the two who sat down first had a rapport that smacked of romance. “Also, I really want a harpsichord.” “Dude, just get a harpsichord.” “I think I will.” My technical knowledge of music is limited, to say the least.  I am a writer/filmmaker and an artist...