The purpose of this site

This is a collection of brief analytic essays on modern, postmodern, avant-garde, and experimental solo piano music.

There is a lack of serious criticism of recent and contemporary “classical” music. There are many reviews of CDs and performances, but very little analysis of individual pieces.  (One reason for this is that the few reviewers usually don’t have scores when they hear the music.) Among the few exceptions are occasional essays in scholarly journals such as Perspectives of New Music. As a result, criticism of contemporary experimental music lags far behind criticism in the visual arts or in fiction and poetry.

The notion here is to behave, in relation to contemporary “experimental” “classical” music, the same way a critic would behave in relation to visual art or writing: that is, to pay attention to the work’s historical context and its detailed form, without relying on generalities.

I include notes on playing the pieces whenever possible—whenever I have played them—and I don’t write about music unless I have the score. I have about 1,000 scores and 1,800 more as pdfs. (Sorry, I no longer trade scores: I try to support publishers by buying originals.)

All comments are welcome.

James Elkins

John White, Piano Sonatas (1956 – )

Tristan Murail, “Terrritoires de l’oubli” (1978) and Nonken’s “The Spectral Piano”

Anthologies of modern and contemporary piano music (1940-2015)

Salvatore Sciarrino, Piano Sonatas (1976-1994)

Beat Furrer, “Drei Klavierstücke” (2004)

Ann Southam, “Soundings for a New Piano” (1986)

Anton Webern, “Variazionen für Klavier,” Op. 27 (1936)

“Grotesque Album for Piano” (“Grotesken Album”), edited by Carl Seelig (1922)

Valery Zhelobinsky, “Six Short Etudes” (1933)

Richard Taruskin, “Music in the Late Twentieth Century” (2005)

Sebastian Currier, “Scarlatti Cadences and Brainstorm” (2005)

Alfred Schnittke, “Fünf Aphorismen für Klavier” (1990)

Lowell Liebermann, Piano Sonata no. 2 (Sonata Notturna) (1983, published 1993)

Lowell Liebermann, “Gargoyles” (1989)

“13 Ways of Looking at the Goldberg,” edited by Lara Downes (2011)

Tristan Murail, “Cloches d’Adieu, et un Sourire” (1992)

Santiago Lanchares, “Dos Invenciones” (1997-99, CD by Ananda Sukarlan, 2005; score published 2006)

Brian Ferneyhough, “Opus contra naturam” (2000)

Shostakovich, 48 Preludes and Fugues (1951)

Hindemith, “Ludus Tonalis” (1942)

Donald Martino, “Pianississimo” (1970,  published 1977)

Lei Liang, “My Windows” (1996-2007)

Leave a Reply