"Paola Prestini’s Code is spectral and crystalline, also blurring the line between concerto and chamber music in its conversational structure." I Care if You Listen
On Friday August 25, 2023, the internationally acclaimed pianist Awadagin Pratt, known as “one of the great and distinctive American pianists and conductors of our time” (All Things Considered), and praised for his “enormous dynamic range [that] encompasses grave quiet to immense thunder” (Boston Musical Intelligencer), will release his new album, STILLPOINT, via New Amsterdam Records. STILLPOINT is a collection of six newly-commissioned works of profound grace, power, and depth, composed by a group of stylistically diverse composers for piano (Pratt), string orchestra (A Far Cry), and vocal ensemble (Roomful of Teeth).
STILLPOINT is a departure from — and a re-imagining of — Pratt's decades-long artistic journey, as he engages with and questions the long established genre-specific norms of classical music. By uniting T.S. Eliot's prescient poem The Four Quartets with his own pioneering musicianship, and with the creative voices of his chosen composers, Pratt explores, in his words, Eliot’s “expression of a particular kind of tension, an understanding of a duality that can exist in life, the struggle for balance, and an acknowledgement of the inexpressible – that which cannot be tidily communicated” as a pathway to ideas not particular to one’s own experience, but universal to the human condition.
The album is a collaboration between Pratt; the Grammy-winning vocal band, Roomful of Teeth; the democratically run string orchestra, A Far Cry; and a stellar array of composers including Alvin Singleton, Jessie Montgomery, Judd Greenstein, Paola Prestini, Pēteris Vasks, and Tyshawn Sorey.
Pratt’s virtuosic performance and unmistakable pianistic touch weave together the disparate voices of the composers and ensembles throughout STILLPOINT. His masterful musicianship and unique voice cast each piece as a part of the greater whole — uniting the ensembles, composers, and philosophical inquiry into one temporal universe where his piano sits at the center.
More about Prestini's "Code"
Contained within more than 1,100 letters exchanged over a nearly seventeen-year period, T.S. Eliot revealed his secret love for writer and schoolteacher, Emily Hale. But the mystery of their complex relationship became more deeply encoded when, prior to his death and the subsequent release of the letters some 50-years later, the poet dismissed the significance of the relationship, stating “that the letters I had been writing to her were the letters of an hallucinated man.”
Composer Paola Prestini, heralded within contemporary music circles for her seemingly limitless imagination when stretching across ways of knowing (astrophysics, conservation, virtual reality) was inspired when composing Code by the infinite complexities inherent in one of life’s most fundamental mysteries: the relationship of two individuals.
As you listen to this work, hear the bird sounds in the opening measures, marked “sparingly, delicately, [so that] each cell can be mimicked and repeated.”
Each section of the composition is led by different motives that are built on musical depictions of the letters of the name translated into notes. It is in essence a love poem in 8 takes, that in its culmination, mirrors the relationship between T.S. and Emily, and fails.
However, the work is also inspired by the idea of a frozen moment in time in terms of the feeling of being in love-how love dances in those moments in frenzied freedom- and how in retrospect it allows for great moments of self-clarity.
The piece is further enveloped in an arc of ascension, as these frozen moments exist in the framework of a life and societal movements. And I believe that our current moment is upward in its trajectory of goodness and clarity.
Listen to Code here
STILLPOINT album available for purchase here