THE BOX IS EMPTY PRESENTS – Andrew Lee, piano – In his own words

We are very excited to be presenting pianist R. Andrew Lee performing Dennis Johnson’s proto-minimalist masterwork November. The piece is spare and meditative, and an astonishing four hours Long. It also holds the unique and auspicious place in American music history of having inspired La Monte Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano. November went unheard for decades until Kyle Gann reconstructed it with the help of the composer.  Andrew will play November‘s Northwest Premiere on November 16, 2013.

We will offer more about the piece and the performance in the coming days, but, until then, here is a bit about Andrew in his own words.

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Andrew will be performing Dennis Johnson’s November on November 16, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. at The Chapel at Good Shepherd Center

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There is incredible beauty to be found in “new” music. Its breadth and depth is astounding. I strongly believe that there is greater variety and quality of music today than there has ever been in the history of Western music. Finding new music, discovering it, and – better still – performing and promoting it, is more rewarding than I could have possibly imagined.

I was not always a new music pianist; Beethoven and Rachmaninoff were my early inspirations. My palate began to expand in 2004 at informal listening sessions with friends such as David D. McIntire, who now produces my recordings for Irritable Hedgehog Music. There I discovered numerous composers and pieces that might have otherwise eluded me. In 2006, I first heared the pieces that would change my life.

William Duckworth wrote The Time Curve Preludes in 1977-78. A set of 24 preludes divided into two books, these pieces exhibit the strong influence of minimalism, while incorporating elements of chant, Satie, and even banjo picking. I knew none of this when I first heard The Time Curve Preludes, but I did know almost immediately that these pieces were absolutely beautiful; I wanted to perform them and wanted to discover more pieces like them.

I slowly began to program these Duckworth preludes on degree recitals. While lay and educated audiences alike found this music fascinating, my fellow students were more likely to perform the works of late Messiaen or Stockhausen. Where they perhaps heard simplicity in minimalism, I heard beauty and depth, and my curiosity grew

In the years that I have been exploring minimalism, I have yet to exhaust the composers or pieces who draw on the style as an influence. There are relatively unknown composers such as Dennis Johnson, Ann Southam, and Paul Epstein who were active before minimalism first entered the lexicon. And there are many, many more who have come since, inspired by the beauty of minimalist aesthetics.

I am entranced by the invitation that minimalist music offers the listener. Rather than pushing and pulling listeners through a piece – manipulating us (no matter how deftly) into some experience – minimalist music presents an invitation to explore a musical space slowly and carefully. Where Beethoven gave us drama that touches our souls, for which we rightly praise him, minimalism gives us a sunset, and we gaze in wonder.

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Pianist R. Andrew Lee is one of the foremost interpreters of minimal music. He has been described as having “superhuman patience and stamina” and “an impressive string of recordings” (Steve Smith, Time Out NY), and his CD of William Duckworth’s The Time Curve Preludes was chosen as a 2012 Critics’ Choice by Gramophone Magazine. In his tenure with the Irritable Hedgehog label, he has recorded six albums, including the first perfectly-timed recording of Tom Johnson’s An Hour for Piano and the premiere recording of Dennis Johnson’s 5-hour minimalist epic, November, a recording that is “nothing short of a miracle” (Jay Batzner, Sequenza21).

Lee has dedicated himself to the performance and recording of new music. He has premiered or released the premiere recording of compositions by many composers whose work lie on the boundaries of minimal music. These include Ann Southam, Paul Epstein, Jürg Frey, Eva-Maria Houben, William Susman, Dennis Johnson, Scott Unrein, and Ryan Oldham. Upcoming projects include a recording of previously unreleased piano music by William Duckworth, and the premiere of a work by Scott Unrein that is meant to last from sunset until sunrise.

Lee has performed in a number of venues dedicated to experimental music around the world, including the STUK Arts Centre (Leuven, Belgium), Café OTO (London), ISSUE Project Room (New York) and Gallery345 (Toronto). He has also been invited to speak and perform at music departments known for their exploration of the avant-garde such as the University of Huddersfield and the California Institute of the Arts.

The intersection of minimal music and temporality is a primary research interest for Lee. As such, he has presented papers and lecture-recitals at several international conferences, most recently the Fourth International Conference on Minimalist Music (California State University, Long Beach) and Time’s Excesses and Eccentricities in Music, Literature and Art (Université de Caen Basse- Normandie). His writing has been published by Divergence Press. Lee also serves as a contributing editor for I CARE IF YOU LISTEN.

Lee currently teaches at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, and was most recently Artist-in- Residence at Avila University. He also serves as faculty for the nief-norf summer music festival. Lee received his DMA in Piano Performance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, where he studied under the direction of Prof. John McIntyre. He has also earned a masters in piano performance from UMKC and a bachelors in piano performance from Truman State University, where he studied under Dr. David McKamie.

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