The Miracle of Perfect Sounds

Composer Kyle here. We just finished a very successful two days of recording sessions for my piece Long Night, which will be an upcoming release on Cold Blue records, an underground West Coast label that I’ve admired since its vinyl days. The piece is for three pianos, but since the piano parts aren’t synchronized, we recorded it with one pianist, the amazing Sarah Cahill – though on three different pianos. And we did it in the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard, which European newspapers have called acoustically the best concert hall in North America, and which is across the street from where I sit. I wrote Long Night in 1980, revised it in 1981, and it hasn’t been heard publicly since New Music America 1982. You can listen to the 1981 performance here if you want, though it sounds so inferior to the recording we just made that I’m ashamed of it now.

Anyway, we recorded all day yesterday, and gathered this morning to hear the results. The first piano tones that came over the loudspeakers were just gorgeous. Tech Director Paul LaBarbera had turned off all the air conditioners in the building for us, and we had achieved absolute silence, like an anechoic chamber; I could hear my tinnitus, which is so faint as to be drowned out by almost anything. In the playback, those pristinely recorded piano tones emerging from total silence were just delicious, like perfect blueberries in first-run maple syrup, even where Sarah was just practicing a fingering. Suddenly it didn’t matter what I had written, and I said so, and Sarah replied, “It doesn’t matter how well I played.” The piano would have sounded beautiful even if a cat had been walking on the keys. Thank goodness perfect sound conditions are so rare, or composers, arrangers of sounds, would become unnecessary – as, indeed, John Cage thought they were.

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