Part of the reason I started A Pianist’s Musings was because I wanted to keep a journal (of sorts) on music that interests me. I figured if I could write about the music I was listening to, maybe I could share it with others and help someone else discover some wonderful new music.
With that in mind, I’ve been listening to Alfonso Peduto on repeat all week.
Peduto is a contemporary pianist and composer who uses minimalism as his main composing tool. Minimalism is a musical style that uses small cellular ideas (like a small rhythm or melody) and creates a piece of music out of them without much deviation (hence the term minimal). Peduto likes to create music by layering minimalistic voices on top of each other. He subtly blends each voice and morphs the musical ideas into beautiful waves of sound, and each piece creates a new and fresh atmosphere.
His most recent album, entitled This Is Not a Piano, Vol. 1, consists of six pieces – each using minimalism and each created with a specific number of layered voices that build to a climax of sound.
22 hands starts with an intense pattern of quickly repeating notes. Things start picking up at 0:45 when Peduto implements the upper registers of the piano, and as the piece progresses he adds low sustained chords and contrasting rhythms in the middle voices to build tension. A drastic reset at 2:15 starts the whole process again with new look on the thematic ideas.
21 hands is one of my favorites on the album. It starts out a lot more calm than 22 hands, but the relationship between the rhythmic cells is exquisite. Each cell fits together perfectly. A sweet little melody enters at 1:41 in the upper register followed by some beautiful low chords, but unlike the previous piece, there is no dramatic build-up in the middle of 21 hands. Rather it resets itself at 2:32 with the entrance of a new melody, and the music rises and falls in perfect sync with all of its moving parts. The second half builds up the calm mood to an exciting high point, (I love the melody that starts at 4:38, by the way) and the pieces finishes softly, bringing back the opening melodic idea.
18 hands opens with an exciting rhythm that is then joined by another exciting (yet unexpected) syncopation in the bass. At 0:39 Peduto interrupts the driving rhythms with some sustained chords that sound like something you would hear in a movie score composed by Hans Zimmer. These chords are played with throughout the rest of the piece using a range of contrasting rhythms.
11 hands opens with a repeated minor third interval between c sharp and e, and for this reason it reminds me very much of Fly by Ludovico Einaudi (Einaudi starts his piece with this same repeated interval). In 11 hands, the rhythmic cells don’t seem to always fit together perfectly. This creates the feeling of mystery and imbalance, which fits well with the harmonies used. There is an underlying current of beautiful unease throughout the work.
12 hands creates a pulse right from the starting notes. This pulse carries through the whole piece, but even with the quick rhythms, there is a sense of troubled calm once a sustained chord motif is introduced at 0:34. However, at 1:42, Peduto starts adding rhythmically driven layers to the upper registers of the piano, which adds a sense of tension and excitement to the calm. Other points of interest include a deep bass melody at 2:52, a complete reset at 4:02, and a second half that exudes the same pseudo-calm as the first (except this time the tone is much more optimistic).
27 hands is the final piece on This Is Not a Piano, Vol. 1. This work is quite subtle overall; the rhythms are simple, and there is less tension because of that. Peduto layers each idea gradually, creating a sense of atmosphere and peace. Unlike the other pieces on the album, 27 hands does not reset in the middle. Instead, it builds slowly from start to finish as sounds weave in and out of each other. At 4:56, when Peduto introduces another bass cell, the music starts intensifying as the layers become more active.
If you liked this album, check out this post I wrote about another of Peduto’s minimalistic piano pieces.
P.S. I shot the featured image for this post (the inside of a piano) on 35mm black and white film.