The Blossoming Piano

Last heard Erik Griswold with his 2015 album Pain Avoidance Machine, made with a prepared piano and the African thumb piano; “fascinating set of mechanistic, minor key miniatures” wrote a delighted Stuart Marshall at the time. Today we have Yokohama Flowers (ROOM 40 RM4101), another 15 tunes for the prepared piano composed and executed by Griswold; the music seems to be connected to the films of Louise Curham, a film-maker who deals in super-8 mm with her own hand-painted additions; there have been collaborations between the two at at least one multi-media event, and Griswold himself regards her films as “a perfect visual counterpoint” to his music. Yokohama Flowers has an unassuming air which kind of catches you off guard; at first glance the tunes may seem incredibly simple, even somewhat sentimental, but the more you examine the surface the more detail and richness you can discern, and it’s evident that Griswold has a real craft in his work and a flair for compacting information into short, very detailed performances. We might want to add that his concept of a prepared piano is some way from that of John Cage, and that’s good. I always assumed Cage was trying to undermine the very culture of the instrument, with invasive, near-destructive interventions, with the express aim of creating unpleasant grating sounds and anti-harmonies. Conversely, Griswold’s piano sounds very attractive and pleasing to the ear, while still managing to surprise us with its unusual and unexpected tones and timbres. From 5th November 2018.

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