The night was fairly cold at the start of fall break. It was a calm night, fair weather and an open sky. It felt wrong to do something exciting and ruin the atmosphere the night had set for me. To aid the atmosphere I was taking in, I went to a piano recital at the Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall, the performer being Aleck Karis.
Before the show started, I arrived only to be one of two people in the hall. I felt bad for the performer, thinking that this was what the entire audience was going to consist of. In reality, I was unknowingly a half-hour early, with crowds of both old and young coming into the hall. Plenty of students were in attendance, ready to take notes on this rare opportunity. Aleck Karis is a world travelled pianist and tonight he was scheduled to perform a piece that has not yet been officially premiered. If you were a student of the art, this was a very exciting night. If you were like me, and are only skilled in a keyboard that isn’t musical, you were in for the unknown.
Mr. Karis walked onto the stage and gave a brief history of the first piece he was going to play. He began the concert with the first six of Debussy’s Etudes. Well known in musical circles as being some of the (if not the) most difficult etudes to perform, Aleck performed the six etudes well enough that the result could sound deceptively simple to the uninformed. The first two etudes were light pieces, the second more chaotic than the first. The next three etudes were quite remarkable with their sound, lulling me into spacing out while the three etudes melded into each other. I pictured a long windy autumn day, as if it were seen through a window. It was extremely pleasant to my ears, and it will enter my relaxation and work playlist.
The second piece he performed was very unusual. It was a newly composed piece that has not yet been officially premiered and it didn’t involve the piano in its traditional use. The only real way I could describe how the piece was performed is to say that the piano was performed similar to a harp, albeit on its side. With plucking, picking, and use of small items like thimbles or metal eggs, the sounds piano produced were quite haunting. This was a very unorthodox piece, and while interesting, it isn’t something I would enjoy listening to twice.
The third piece that was performed was a piano piece that was composed to contain the melody of a Chinese folk song, which can be heard four times throughout the piece. The Moon is Following Us was a song with many energetic moments and a very light tone. The melody was recognizable–with a brief example of it before he performed the piece–and sounded pleasant every time it came up in the piece. However, this piece had a problem of sounding disjointed; some sections of the song didn’t really fit together.
The final piece of the night was a concept piece from a master clock builder. Harrison’s Clocks was a short trip into the realm of musical representation, with each piece representing one of the clocks he made in the past. I was reminded of Looney Tunes while this was being performed; I could attach actions to parts of the music I heard. Going hand in hand with the purpose of the song, the song is intentionally disjointed at times, usually to give the impression that a clock failed to work. It’s difficult for a performer to be given something intentionally messy, and make it work.
The recital, much like the night, was calm and nice. It ended in the same way it started, with nice music. Mr. Karis capped off the recital with a short piece, Igor Stravinsky’s Tango. It was strangely nostalgic, yet I swear I’ve not heard it before. It was definitely a pleasant piece for my ears to take in. All in all, Mr. Karis’ recital was definitely a memorable part of the calm night. It was nice to have a single night of the semester where I didn’t have anything academic to worry about, and this recital only amplified the feeling that the night was a pleasant night.