Aug 3rd 2019

Adventurous Australians launch digital album of improvs

by Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is a music critic with particular interest in piano. 

Johnson worked as a reporter and editor in New York, Moscow, Paris and London over his journalism career. He covered European technology for Business Week for five years, and served nine years as chief editor of International Management magazine and was chief editor of the French technology weekly 01 Informatique. He also spent four years as Moscow correspondent of The Associated Press. He is the author of five books.

Michael Johnson is based in Bordeaux. Besides English and French he is also fluent in Russian.

You can order Michael Johnson's most recent book, a bilingual book, French and English, with drawings by Johnson:

“Portraitures and caricatures:  Conductors, Pianist, Composers”

 here.

Combining “telepathic improvisation” plus original instrumentation, two adventurous Australian musicians have just launched a digital album of 12 new pieces brimming with sounds never quite captured before in recordings. The pianist plays two expanded keyboards simultaneously while his partner meets his ideas on an 18th century cello. The result is a marriage of the new and the old with echoes ranging from Bach to Arvo Part. 

Both musicians are classically trained and their setup is original. Pianist Ashley Hribar positions himself between two handmade Stuart & Sons pianos (102 keys and 108 keys) and plays them simultaneously as his cellist colleague Richard Vaudrey contributes lush vibrato lines. 

Together, they created their “Sleeping Orchards” album in three days of improvisation at Beleura House, Mornington, Victoria.  Hribar plays the pianos with each hand while Vaudrey adds his ideas on a William Forster cello built in 1791. The two players call themselves “Two Deep Breaths”.

The album consists of “pretty much first takes,” says Hribar. The two friends functioned in a kind of in telepathic mode, they say, following each others’ ideas from phrase to phrase.

This album is the most ambitious recording yet exploiting the big sound of the Stuart 108-key stretched piano from Stuart & Sons. Hribar is the most frequent performer on the “Big Beleura”, having played recitals at Beleura House and Garden and recorded other works on it. On this album, three tracks feature him playing both pianos at once. All other tracks are on the 108-key Big Beleura. 

Some tracks are backed up with a MOOG DFAM analogue drum machine. The result leaves an impression of a much larger ensemble. 

Samples of the new sounds can be accessed here:

 

https://open.spotify.com/artist/3evumjpyWiDc24iO0O5GaV

 

I found “Honey Dew” the most appealing piece, a breath of outdoor freshness in an Australian spring. “Saffron” brings Indian overtones and the deep tonic pulses from the Stuart piano bass, evoking Arvo Part. Vaudrey’s cello almost becomes a sitar. “Sleep Orchard”, the title selection, closes the album in a quiet, peaceful mode.

Hribar tells me in an exchange of emails that he found new dimensions of piano sound and “panning” effects by bringing the two pianos together in one improvisation. He characterizes the music as “mellow/spacey, neo-classical, minimal and a bit experimental”.

The recordings are available on all major download/streaming platforms including Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Google play, Emusic, T-Mobile, Roxi, 7-Digital and others under the Emubands music distribution system.

 

A standard CD will be released in October.

--------

Articles related to the 108-key piano are available here:

 

Giant piano from Australia now accessible online

by Michael Johnson

May 6th 2019

 

No, it’s not ‘crazy’ to want 20 more keys on your piano

by Michael Johnson

Mar 1st 2019

 

 

END

 

 


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