David Lang is one of my favorite composers and among a handful of brave souls who created the vibrant new music scene we enjoy today. He and his Bang on a Can co-founders Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon were writing, producing and getting their music played and recorded long before the coming of the internet, inexpensive recording technology, and a hip club scene made DIY SOP. He reminds me a bit of the hero in the old country song “I Knew Jesus Before He Was a Superstar.”
His latest recording on Cantaloupe, this was written by hand, was officially released yesterday. The album is made up of two compositions, the title work this was written by hand and memory pieces, both performed by the gifted pianist Andrew Zolinsky, who gave the first performances of both them some years ago. Perhaps because they are played so beautifully on a solo piano, both works have a directness and approachability that make them among the most user-friendly and enchanting that Lang has ever written, IMHO. What you have here, folks, is a mature composer in total command of his craft and his musical soul.
Ah, but you want to know about those extra hands, right? One of the works on the album, wed, is the subject of an online contest that some really talented but perhaps underappreciated pianst will win. The sheet music for wed is available for free here and you are are invited to download it. Pianists can then post videos of themselves playing the work onto YouTube with the tag “david lang piano competition 2011″. After January 1, all of the submissions will be judged by an all-star pianist panel consisting of Vicky Chow, Jeremy Denk, Lisa Moore, Andrew Zolinsky, and the composer himself. The winner will be flown to New York, and Lang will compose a new work for four hands to be played by him/her and Zolinsky at (le) poisson rouge on May 6. The winner will also play his or her rendition of “wed” at (le) poisson rouge. The full rules can be found here.
Good luck. I’m pulling for you.