Surprise – It’s Me!

MinimalPianoCollection.jpgI had a notice from the post office of a package waiting for me, so I stopped to pick it up on the way to school. It was a CD set. I get a lot of those sent to me. This one was Minimal Piano Collection Volume X-XX, a bunch of minimalist pieces for multiple pianos put together by Dutch pianist Jeroen van Veen on the Brilliant Classics label. I had seen the first Volume (I-IX because it contains nine CDs) in Amsterdam, but hadn’t bought it because I already had other recordings of some of the music. So I was glad to get this, and didn’t think too much about it as I was rushing to school – until I turned it over and noticed my own name. And sure enough, Jeroen and Sandra van Veen (with overdubbing) included my Long Night (1981) for three pianos, and I had no idea they were doing it. As I look through my old e-mails, I find that Jeroen did write long ago to express general interest, but I don’t believe he ever told me it was coming out. The other composers in the collection are (take a deep breath) John Adams, Jurriaan Andriessen, Louis Andriessen, Marcel Bergmann, William Duckworth (Forty Changes and Binary Images, which I didn’t know and they’re lovely), Julius Eastman (Gay Guerilla), Douwe Eisenga, Morton Feldman (including the seminal Piece for Four Pianos, which I’d only had on scratchy vinyl), Graham Fitkin, Joep Franssens, Philip Glass, Gabriel Jackson, Tom Johnson, Simeon ten Holt, David Lang (Orpheus Over and Under), Colin McPhee, Chiel Meijering, Wim Mertens, John Metcalf, Carlos Michans, Meredith Monk, Arvo Pärt, Michael Parsons, Alexander Rabinovitch, Steve Reich, Frederic Rzewski, Tim Seddon, Jeroen van Veen, Jacob er Veldhuis, and Kevin Volans (Cicada, great piece). 

It’s scary to have a piece come out on recording and not work with the performers at all, especially with a piece as free and amorphous in its notation as Long Night (which I wrote 150 years ago at age 25, fer gosh sake). But the van Veens did a nice job with it, a little louder and less pedalled than Sarah Cahill’s version, but longer (31 minutes) and quite clear and enjoyable. I hear the notes and textures I wanted to hear, and sensitively done. It convinces me that the notation is clear enough to trust to strangers. As someone who grew up as a weird kid without many friends, it means more to me than you’d imagine to be included in a big group of composers like this. And it’s an astonishing surprise to receive in the mail a recording of your own music that you didn’t know was on the horizon.


  1. ben w says

    Hey Kyle,
    If you didn’t know about this release maybe you also didn’t know that you’re one of the composers whose pieces the Other Minds folks are proud to announce will be performed at the next OM festival. So, if you didn’t, now you do, and if you did, so does everyone else who reads the comments.
    KG replies: Other Minds is flying me in, so they actually had to contact me to make sure I could come. Looking forward to it.

  2. says

    Congratulations, Kyle. That’s one of my favorite pieces of yours.
    KG replies: Thanks, Scott – the style I should have continued writing in, I suppose, and always intended to return to. If I may praise myself for a moment, Long Night really does stand out from the rest of the pieces in the collection in not being based on a steady pulse, but in three tempos at once. Might I suggest that it may be (1980-81) the first Totalist piece?

  3. says

    Been following you on Instant Encore and saw this. I never would have known of this CD collection had John Metcalf not told me about it (I love his piece Never Odd or Even, for six pianos–in this case all played by van Veen). I am not versed in this music, and for me it has proved to offer delight after delight–both the composers I knew of, at least (like you), and so many I didn’t know (Chiel Meijering was one of many happy discoveries for me). Metcalf was very pleased with van Veen’s recording of his piece. It’s nice to read, directly from you as the composer, that you feel the same of yours.
    KG replies: I’ve been following Chiel Meijering for many years, ever since his piece A Lady Shaves her Legs. Very interesting composer.