New Music: Adrian Night, Obsessions, Performed by R. Andrew Lee

Knight obsessionsPianist R. Andrew Lee has carved out a unique space in contemporary music playing minimalist works, and especially some that are extremely long, such as Dennis Johnson’s nearly five-hour November. He also crowdfunded a project, back in 2014, called Music of a Considerable Duration, to fund the recording of some other very long works. (You can read an interview with R. Andrew Lee that I published in 2014.)

Andy has released his tenth album on the Irritable Hedgehog recording, featuring a 47-minute work by Adrian Knight called Obsessions. In the notes for this recording, Knight says:

“a summary of a bunch of different directions that I’ve been trying out, what I like to think of as a harmonic labyrinth. There’s an equal-weightedness to each harmony, there’s a kind of push and pull that happens. I’m curious about chords that could go a number of different ways, and have a number of different types of functionality.”

This work is redolent of Morton Feldman, notably such later piano works as Triadic Memories. The first half of the work is a sort of see-saw between two or three chords, exploring the spaces between two different chords. As in Feldman’s music, there is a hint of dissonance, but the work is essentially tonal. About halfway through the piece, the tone changes, and instead of simple chords, there are more runs and short melodies that add to the music; the apparent simplicity of the harmonies becomes richer and more complex. And in the final section, the work offers a melodic series of chords that seem to form a brief, repeating narrative.

As with Lee’s other recordings, this one has impeccable sound, with the piano sounding as though it was closely miked, yet with excellent clarity. You can buy it by download or on CD from Irritable Hedgehog, and Lee’s other albums – this is his tenth – are on sale for the next month. If you’re a fan of this type of minimalist music, you will like this album. And if you haven’t discovered Lee’s recordings, this is a good chance to hear some music you probably haven’t encountered before.