- Hammerklavier (after Beethoven)
Parallel Lives is, apparently, the programming team of Michael Gardiner and John Latartara, who "attempt to reveal the various ways Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" could be experienced." The basis for what is heard is a performance of the Beethoven "Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 (Hammerklavier)" by pianist Jon Sakata, digitally manipulated by Gardiner and Latartara. The booklet's description of the project's aims is brief and not especially enlightening; the authors say that "a view of the 'musical work' is documented in all its stages, from discussion to the practice room, recording studio, and concert hall, to its final confrontation with the labyrinthine structures of the software applications that threaten its identity." Although the sonata does seem to dissolve as the performance goes along, that description implies a linear development that does not occur. Rather, the music sticks fairly close to Beethoven at first, with silences and electronic backdrops hovering in the background. Toward the end of the first movement the bottom drops out; with some of the electronic sounds used the work does indeed seem to be "under attack." But snatches of it are heard throughout the rest of the composition, and sometimes the processing will freeze the music in action and explode the sonic dimension of a single chord, as if it were one of the opened-up bodies in the Bodyworlds museum exhibition. Various sounds are used, including audience noises and ambient environments suggesting the practice rooms of a music school. The Beethoven partially reasserts itself at the triumphant beginning of the final fugue, and one unique feature of this treatment is the way it seems to follow the overall structure of the original work rather than forcing it into an electronic conception. The sequence of events loses focus after a while; the verbal discussion between the two partners, even with the above discussion in mind, may seem self-indulgent (they muse on what to do next), especially when it turns potty-mouthed. This ambitious electronic treatment of a classical repertory work nevertheless is brimming with original ideas, and for students of a literary-theoretical bent when it comes to new music it's a gold mine.