Wed 1 Dec 2010
Sentinel-Tribune article here.
Lisa Moore performs tonight and Thursday New Music has been good to Lisa Moore.
Not that she always appreciated it. As a young pianist she was exposed to work intended for young pianists by composers in her native Australia. She found them “too dissonant and slow.” Then when she started her studies at the Sydney Conservatorium her first music history class was in 20th century music, taught by Richard Toop who had worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen, the groundbreaking German composer. That master’s work as well as that by Gyorgy Ligeti and John Cage caught her ear.
“I also befriended the composers in the class,” she said. That led to them asking her to play their compositions. She found “I was good at it and was getting more performances.”
That served her well as she moved on through her studies, and when she moved to New York City in 1985 and started working as a freelance musician. Those skills at new music “helped me break in.”
She ended up helping to found and touring with the Bang On A Can All Stars, a pre-eminent contemporary music ensemble. And she collaborated with musicians who helped transform music in the late 20th century – Ornette Coleman, Philip Glass, Elliott Carter, Brian Eno and Meredith Monk as well as other younger exponents of music that spans the classical, avant garde and jazz idioms.
That range of experience will be on display when she performs two concerts in Bowling Green, the first tonight at 10:15 at the Clazel Theatre in downtown and Thursday at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall.
Tonight’s performance will feature works by Brian Eno, Rufus Wainwright and Randy Newman as well as by the noted jazz clarinetist Don Byron from Moore’s most recent album “Seven.” These pieces will draw on Moore’s improvisational skills.
The impetus to ad lib goes back to her earliest days at the keyboard, before she took lessons, when she played, like so many before and after her, “Chopsticks” and a little boogie woogie. Then she started taking lessons. No one ever took those earliest forays into playing seriously. “It took me years to realize it’s good to take ‘Chopsticks’ and boogie woogie seriously.”
When she was 18, she purchased a fakebook, a collection of jazz and popular standard tunes reduced to the minimum notation. “I was always a private improvisor.”
In playing the music of Frederic Rzewski, whose music often include improvisation, Moore said, “there’s a change of pace in the music, there’s a change in the atmosphere” when it moves from what’s written to what’s extemporized.
For someone trained in classical music, jumping into improvisation “can be intimidating” because it requires learning a new musical language.
“Improvisation makes you feel exposed,” she said. “I like that now, but it used to make me uncomfortable.”
Moore maintains anyone can learn to improvise. “If you practice you can do it.”
Improvising helps her take a looser, though not in regards to her faithfulness to the score, attitude toward the compositions she plays. Playing composed music though also informs her improvisations. “There’s physical gestures that can be taken and used in improvisation, and this feeling of structure that can shape an improvisation.”
Thursday’s concert will feature two compositions based on literary texts: Rzewski’s “De Profundis” based on the letters of Oscar Wilde, and Martin Bresnick’s “For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise,” inspired by the works of William Blake and includes projected images of Blake’s art. On the Bresnick, as on some of the pieces by Byron, Moore sings along with her playing. On the Rzewski, she recites.
She’s comfortable with this dramatic element, Moore said. “As a kid I wanted to be an actor”.