Alexina Louie's Fastforward

December 14, 2011

On Sept 26, Friday evening, I had the honour of playing for composer Alexina Louie her work Fastforward - composed specifically for the Montreal International Musical Competition as the imposed Canadian work.  Alexina is one of Canada's most highly regarded and most often performed composers.  Her long list of awards includes the Juno Award, Composer of the Year (from the Canadian Music Council) and Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music.

 

So how we came to meet up?  It started when I sent Alexina an email interview to be incorporated for my Oct 18 concert program.  She not only responded with great details, but also provided insights into this piece.  She referred me to recordings of the Montreal competition, which inspired me to dare to ask if she has time to come hear me play, as I have to perform it on Sept 28 at Glenn Gould studio as part of Off Centre Music Salon.  Holding my breath for her answer, she said yes!

 

THE INTERVIEW

Ricker: Why do you call this piece Fastforward?

Alexina: Fastforward is a term used in the forward direction of, first of all, a reel-to-reel (analog) recording tape. It is also a term used for DVDs etc. It is also a fast piece. When you put a reel-to-reel recording tape into fast forward mode, it rushes by and if the playback head is engaged, it makes a really high almost squeaky sound. Many years ago I studied electronic music with Pauline Oliveros and others.

Ricker: What attracts you to incorporating jazz and blues elements in your music?

Alexina: I had written so many piano pieces in a certain style, and was known for that style, that in order to keep the music fresh and interesting for me as a composer I wanted to write in a completely different style. This first occurred in a work commissioned for Katherine Chi, who is a terrific pianist, a laureate of the Esther Honens International Piano Competition. The piece is called Put On Your Running Shoes. Although I am not a jazz pianist, the sound of jazz is in my ear and so I started that piece by improvising in a totally different way than I normally do when I start the composing process. I liked the sound and so I went with it.  I also write film scores with my husband, Alex Pauk, and sometimes the films require totally different kinds of music that what I write for the concert hall, so many genres of music are actually comfortable for me. Some of these musical ideas are found in Burnt Toast, my 5 minute made-for-TV operas, which you can either rent from a video store, or purchase through CBC on their website. They are very funny. Great singers, like Isabel Bayrakdarian, and Russell Braun, Michael Colvin, but mostly lip-synched by some of Canadas best actors and comedians (Colin Mocherie, Com Feore, Paul Gross etc.)

Ricker: What other piano pieces that you wrote which also have jazz elements in them

Alexina: There are three pieces in this genre: Put On Your Running Shoes, In A Flash, and Fastforward.

 

ON MY INTERPRETATION 

After hearing me play the work, Alexina gave me valuable comments:

Bar 9 (and other similar low accented Bb's in this section) - these accents must be very pronounced

Bar 31 - even though the dynamics has dropped, make sure the accented RH notes are heard clearly

Bar 44 - count in strict rhythm; the first beat and the last eighth has the strongest accents. The middle accented beat is relatively weaker (and similarly for the next 3 bars)

Bar 48, 49, 51 - the last eighth in LH must be accented pronouncedly

Bar 52 - 59 - count in strict rhythm to make the rhythmic change in bar 58 more effective

Bar 77 - 84 - make sure LH doesnt cover RH

Bar 140 to Bar 150 - voice towards the RH

Alexina and me checked my tempo with a Metronome.  For some of the sections, my tempo is slightly faster than the tempo markings in the score, which Alexina approves as long as the line and accents are not lost.  Below is my tempo:

Bar 7: 126 (slightly faster than current tempo markings)

Bar 44: 92

Bar 60: 104

Bar 77: 60 (slightly faster than current tempo markings)

Bar 88: 84 (slightly faster than current tempo markings)

Bar 139: 100-104

Bar 156: 92-96

It is so cool to play for Alexina her own work!  Thanks, Alexina, for your valuable time and comments!  And thanks for composing such a fun piece!

 

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